Picture this – On a bright Sunday morning, you are getting ready to visit your mother, you prepare a sumptuous meal (including all her favorites) and delicately stick a “Get Well Soon Mom!” card on top of the lunch box. Since, she hasn’t been keeping well for some time, you are sure to bring a smile on her face with your exquisite preparations. Just the moment you are about to leave, you get a call from your family doctor. Hysterical and alarmed, you rush to the hospital only to find out that your mother has been diagnosed with a third stage cancer. How would you feel? How would you react when you know the imprisoned stiffness of the moment is not temporary and that little ray of hope you had is also gone?
According to Cancer Research UK, 23.6 million new cancer cases worldwide each year are predicted by 2030. The reality is – Cancer is everywhere, it’s growing and can happen to anyone. It knows no boundaries, no color or race. It’s not biased towards communities. It’s an enormous global health burden, touching every region and socioeconomic level. Uncertainty and death are the biggest fears of cancer. More than your body, cancer attacks your strength, there is a sudden onset of anxiety and hopelessness, guilt, depression, and you feel there is no Plan-B. You fear you may never look the same again, you fear losing your loved ones, you fear undergoing treatment, you fear pain and in the whole process – all your worries pile up and affect your healing power.
This is the story of Sharon Kim…
Sharon Kim, founder and CEO of CanPlan, LLC and a girl with a mission, learnt about her mother’s illness when she was on the first step of her career ladder. Recently graduated from Santa Clara University in Psychology & Business, she was thrilled to join a high-tech company as a Marketing Manager when a frantic call from her sister led her to leave everything behind and move to Hawaii. It was December 6, 2013 when she first found out that her mom was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma cancer.
Every time I listen to someone, their story changes the way I view my life. I first spoke to Sharon in 2016 and then again in 2018 (just a few days back), what I could comprehend from my experience was – Our strength is laid out by our belief in self and our dreams. Today, I feel lucky and honored to invite Sharon on Real Life Heroes – By Manvi as she talks about her launch of CanPlan version 3, her vision and mission to take forward.
Manvi: Sharon, you are a CanPlan Creator and Positivity Enthusiast, how did your journey to CanPlan begin? How did you conceptualize the idea of creating a Cancer Planner?
Sharon: It was December 6, 2013 when I first got to know about my mother’s cancer. Three months into chemotherapy and the doctor told us that her cancer had metastasized to her lungs further progressing to Stage 4. With no time left to her, I decided to step up and started keeping a track of everything from her medications and side effects, to her diet, exercise, and mood to get a better understanding of what her illness was like day by day. As I had thought, the method proved to be very effective in monitoring how her body was reacting to different treatments, but unfortunately it was too late. Though my mom lost her battle to cancer, I realized how important it was for anyone to be aware of one’s bodily changes during cancer treatment, how it helps in responding in a more productive manner. With this thought in mind, I created a Cancer Planner called CanPlan. It’s a personal planner, specifically designed to assist cancer patients and caregivers with their daily battle against cancer, an all-in-one tool for you and your loved ones to be organized and take more control over your path to recovery.
Manvi: What kind of problems did you face or limitations that you came across when you first launched CanPlan and how did you overcome them?
Sharon: When I created the first version of CanPlan, getting enough funds was a big problem, squashing a word about the product was difficult. I had to manage with very little resources in hand. Another major issue was to teach people that CanPlan is a need, since, nothing of this sort existed in the market, a lot of people wrote everything on pieces and scraps of paper (exactly as what I did during my mother’s treatment) from their next scheduled appointment to their medicines to sometimes even their doubts. All of this added to chaos and unsurety. In cancer, one needs to be organized and fully prepared so a Cancer Planner is much needed, people had to be made aware of this as a solution. Also, I realized Kickstarter was a difficult platform to reach my target audience, cancer patients aged 40-60 were not too comfortable with placing orders online, so, I had to help them with the process, channel them so their gateway to entry was easy.
It was definitely a bumpy ride!
For this CanPlan version 3, I was in constant communication with people through Instagram Stories or Facebook Stories showing them updates in Real Time and asking questions through polls and surveys and getting their feedback on what they need in a planner. I can say, my audience helped me create this version of CanPlan which is why I am far more confident this time. Some of the features that set CanPlan 3 apart from other versions is that – it’s a binder so patients can customize it. The entire design of this planner is more cohesive from colors to boxes to placements everything has been well researched upon and extremely detailed. This planner is more mission based, I have put all new set of exercises for patients to open their neuro-pathways.
Manvi: Would you like to highlight some of the most significant features of CanPlan and how has it helped people so far?
Sharon: The heart of the planner is the Daily Tracker as it encourages patients to reflect upon their day in their cancer journey. In that moment of clarity (which is otherwise sort of rare) they document what’s going on inside them, they express their emotions fully. This, I feel, plays a vital role in keeping their saturated self at bay. During the appointment with the doctor the daily tracker in CanPlan acts as a reference point, the patients are able to comprehend everything and know what to ask further. This also builds a trust between the doctor and the patient, it creates an equation where both proactively try to work towards a solution. A lot of patients also love the Appointment Tracker which helps them prepare their questions beforehand. Also, the Positivity Exercises that keep patients motivated and regulate their brain in an effective and healthy manner.
Manvi: You are launching CanPlan Version 3 kick-starter, what is your vision and mission to take forward this time?
Sharon: Firstly, I want CanPlan to reflect one’s heroic journey. When ordinary people get called into something greater by being thrown in a difficult life situation and have to impel their inner conqueror to fight back, through this process, they document constantly in their CanPlan both moments of calamity and clarity, which they can use as an elixir for people who are about to go in that same journey with them. So, it’s a form of healing which they share with others and together come up with a collaborative plan of attack against their illness. Secondly, it should be the first planner to appear in people’s mind when they think about any health issue be it mental or physical.
Manvi: I personally feel that if you also collaborate with Cancer Hospitals and Care centers, this would give your vision a wider reach. What is your take on it?
Sharon: Well, I would love that to happen, but the more I am diving into this healthcare industry, the clearer I can see how lucrative and money oriented it is. Hospitals are businesses focused on getting the most patients in and out of their facilities with little investment into the actual care of each patient. Insurance companies are like money monsters that control what hospitals can and can’t do. Pharmaceutical industries are completely running the entire way we view medicine, where doctors are mainly being trained to put patients on drug cocktails. There are a lot of flaws in the healthcare system, and although I’d love to work with hospitals, I find myself in a position where I need to sacrifice my values in order to make a profit, which is something I refuse to do. I think I’m going to refocus my efforts on challenging the healthcare system to really look at patients as humans, and not numbers.
Manvi: You were an integral part of your mother’s cancer journey and since then, you are helping so many other people sail through their extremely exhausting and painful times. I am sure this impact you as human being, so, what keeps you going? Where do you derive your strength from?
Sharon: Wow, this is my favorite question so far. Over the past few months, I’ve been diving deeply into my spirituality and you know, having an intimate relationship with God has changed everything for me. I find my confidence and my strength in him, which allows me to bravely take on difficult tasks and courageously live out my convictions. I’m able to find peace in the midst of calamity, knowing that I’m going to get to where I need to go, although the path may be different from what I had expected. He’s a steady handed surgeon, who is constantly performing surgery on my heart, and the amount of personal growth I’ve experienced just by inviting him to be part of my life, has been miraculous.
Manvi: There is far more awareness towards Cancer in the world today as compared to decades back. With better healthcare and improved diagnostics, the survival rate has almost doubled, yet, the cancer risk overall is rising. According to Cancer Research UK – It’s because of our increasing lifespan. What do you feel about this? Do you think there are other factors as well?
Sharon: Our healthcare industry is so good at symptom management or alleviating pain but are we really tapping into actual cure? No. We can surely identify and kill the cancer cells, but, we don’t take a holistic approach of understanding the environment that is causing or supporting cancer. We are not cleaning that environment, we are not incorporating nutrition or the right mentality into it and everything is connected.
Yes survival rates have gone up, but there’s a difference we need to acknowledge about killing cancer and curing cancer. Killing cancer provides a temporary fix for the patients currently affected. It’s like wiping out the chief of a terrorist operation and forgetting that the chief has infected and influenced many others along the way. The war is dormant, but different battles are taking place, that’ll eventually awaken the war once again. Curing cancer on the other hand, is celebrating the decrease in diagnoses and re-occurrence, just as much as we celebrate the decrease in deaths. It’s wiping out the chief and getting those who were influenced and infected into caring environments where love rather than hate can be fostered. It’s coaching the rescue team to care for the infected beyond just physical matters, so that true healing can begin.
Manvi: What message would you like to give away to all the people who are reading you right now?
Sharon: There is a beauty to failure, you can’t get the value of resilience if you don’t fail. You are missing out on so much of life by being safe and choosing to sit back when life is calling you to dance with it. So, get up and get out of that bubble. You are not going to die if you fail, you are going to learn and there is nothing to be embarrassed about it!
(Exclusive for Real Life Heroes – By Manvi)
Support Sharon in her mission to beat Cancer –
Click here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/canplan/canplan-cancer-planner-a-heros-roadmap-to-recovery