Turn Empathy Into Action With CanDo

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By: Rachael Lonergan, guest contributor 

In late 2008 I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I didn’t cry when I was told I had cancer. I laughed. It seemed so absurd because my older sister had been struggling with sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer for many years.  Cancer was already a big part of my life, and now I had it too.

I stopped laughing when my surgeon asked me “Rachael, would you say you’re a controlling person?”.  That’s when I knew I was in big trouble.  He said “For the next year, you are going to be where we tell you to be, when we tell you to be there, and do what we ask of you. But the goal is that we get to the end of the year and we’ve saved your life.”.


So started a year of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, pain, nausea, loneliness and baldness.  The baldness was actually not something I cared about.  The part that bothered me most was how boring it all was.  B.C. (before cancer) I’d been a busy, senior advertising strategist, single but dating, paying my mortgage and drinking too many wines on a Friday night.  All of that stopped abruptly and I spent a lot of time alone, in my house and in my head. 

But here’s the thing - I didn’t really need to be as alone as I was.  Everyone offered to help.  But I defaulted to the usual polite response of “No thanks I’m totally fine”. There were times I’d send someone home with “No, no I don’t need you to do anything” and then wonder how I would be able to change my sheets, given I couldn’t lift my arms.  But going from “let’s have a glass of wine” to “can you please change my sheets” was just too big a leap to make in conversation.

Instead I paid people - cleaners, gardeners, food delivery. Right at the time of my life when my income was shaky at best, I paid people to do the work that friends wanted to do, but I wouldn’t admit that I needed help.  I came out of that experience thinking, there must be a better way.

So I created CanDo.

CanDo is a free app that turns empathy into action.  It makes it easy to accept and manage the offers of help that come your way in challenging times.  You can create a team, schedule and allocate tasks, and give your team the latest update. 

If you don’t want to “drive” CanDo that’s ok.  We’ve all got that one friend who likes to manage and plan things?  The one who gets everyone to that impossible to coordinate dinner? That person is your ideal CanDo organiser.  I had cancer so it was built using my experience but CanDo is just as relevant for all sorts of situations where someone needs care. It can be a huge help to a new mum who is struggling to get anything at home done because she has a baby attached to her. 

When I had fully developed the idea of CanDo, The Garvan Institute of Medical Research came on board as a founding sponsor.  With their help, I am able to provide the app for free, to anyone who needs it. With their credibility, I’m able to tap into a wonderful world of people who are working tirelessly to support people with serious illnesses. CanDo is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s also most definitely the most rewarding.

For more information please go to the website at www.candoapp.com.au.  You’ll find more info and links to download the app, from the AppStore and Google Play

Tell a friend, take a look and see what you can do.