Sharon Kim gets that no one ever plans to have cancer, but after watching her mother succumb to sarcoma cancer in 2014, she took on a major life mission: Help people plan to beat cancer. She created CanPlan, a planner to help patients and caregivers fight cancer day by day.
But the fire in her belly to help others began as a slow burn. “The pain of watching my mom go through cancer was so intense, that all I wanted to do was numb it,” she shared. “I was in denial about the possibility that she could actually pass away from this, which led me into inaction throughout her entire treatment.”
When her mom was diagnosed, Kim was making a decent living in marketing for various start-ups in Silicon Valley. “I didn’t realize there was more to life than making a good income and chasing after success,” she said. “Experiencing the death of a loved one at such a young age truly transformed my life. It helped me realize how short and precious our time here on earth is, which in turn inspired me to live a meaningful life.”
Now 27, Kim remembers the shift from denial to action after physicians reported they had exhausted all treatment options for her mom. “My family and I realized how heavily we relied on my mom’s oncologist to pave the pathway towards recovery for us, only to end up defeated and disappointed,” she said.
Time to reclaim control
“When I realized her life was now in our hands, everything changed,” she explained. “I started to take notes on everything, from her medications to her diet to her symptoms and even to her mood… I wanted to clearly see what was and wasn’t working in her treatment plan, so that I could develop a system to replicate her good days.”
Unable to find a planner that met her needs, “all my notes ended up being jumbled, disorganized, confusing, and a bit hard to navigate,” Kim said.
Her tangle of tools included random notebooks, journals, motivational books and cancer books. Amid the jumble, a pattern emerged and the family adopted a more conscious, aggressive approach to treatment. “We felt empowered from our sense of control in the situation, which translated to my mom having way more good days than bad days before she passed.”
“The night I realized I should create an all-in-one tool like CanPlan came when I had just spent two hours drawing out a month’s worth of daily trackers that included all the different things I wanted to keep track of. I remember thinking, ‘There’s got to be a better way of doing this.’”
Her experience sharing caregiver duties with her sister reinforced her resolve to create CanPlan. “Since we were both caregivers at different times of the day, she’d leave me notes on the trackers that’d help us to stay on the same page and pick up where the other one left off. We even showed my mom’s oncologist what we were doing and he was blown away. That’s when I knew I needed to bring this to market, and teach people about a need they might not even be aware of.”
What sets CanPlan apart?
Kim shared a peek into CanPlan and described some of the first tools a user will find inside. “The planner includes a daily tracker as well as a monthly tracker to round up all the important information,” she said. “Toward the end of the planner, you’ll find positivity exercises so that your mental health is just as sharp as your physical health. It is literally the all-in-one tool you’ll need in this cancer journey.” CanPlan includes:
- A cancer roadmap for you to log all the important dates/events in your cancer journey and see an overall view of how you’re doing in your journey
- Questions for your doctor so you can start asking the right questions and keeping track of important details
- Treatment options evaluation to see all the options you have and choose the best one
- Chemotherapy tip sheet to help combat all the symptoms of chemo
- Appointment tracker so you can think of your doctor as your encyclopedia and get all the necessary information you need each time you see him/her
- Blood cell tracker to see how well your white blood cell count is doing and how well your body is fighting your cancer
- Juicing tip sheet to help integrate a holistic approach to your treatment
Inspirational guide through cancer journey
Meghan Franz (Instagram: Meghan Koziel/She Sparkles On) was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 26. “I was newly engaged [and] planning my fairy tale wedding,” she shared. “We just bought our house together, and I just moved across the state to start my ‘big girl’ life with my soon to be husband! NO WHERE in that plan was there an inkling of room for CANCER! After my diagnosis, I literally felt like my perfectly planned out life was crumbling around me.”
Then Meghan saw an Instagram post about the CanPlan. “The CanPlan is completely different than a traditional planner because it guides you through the cancer journey,” she explained. “With the CanPlan, I was able to have all my doctors and medications at the blink of a page turn. I was able to track my symptoms, my energy level, I was even able to track my nutrition… My very favorite part of the CanPlan is the section [where] I was able to reflect on my journey. [A]t my lowest points in life, the CanPlan was there as literally a blank canvas for me to release all my feelings, thoughts, emotions, and struggles daily!”
Beyond the CanPlan’s organizational benefits, Meghan, now 28, said the inspirational components provided much-needed encouragement. “I knew every time I journaled for the week that I could do it for one more week, and one more, until I realized – I DID IT, and I was cancer free!”
Regret led to helping others
CanPlan founder Sharon Kim looks back on her mother’s cancer journey with one regret: “I wish we’d started her journey with a sense of empowerment and control.” For those just beginning a journey with a cancer diagnosis – either for themselves or a loved one – Kim has advice: “Be present, be aware, and take responsibility for your awareness. If you feel something’s off, look into it, shine light on it, and find solutions. Don’t just sit around and dream. Go out and DO. You determine how you want your story to go.”