Justin McLean is a man who has not only touched me personally in the short time I have known him, but one who is about to have a profound impact on the lives of people all over the world.
A loving husband and father of three adoring children, Justin was 40 years old, fighting fit and in the prime of his corporate career (at professional services firm PWC) when he was told he had cancer and may only have four months to live.
“Life is all about plan B, C and D and risk adjustment. But there’s no plan B when you’re told you have cancer.”
For Justin, there was no option but to beat it. ‘No plan B’ became his mantra. But merely ‘surviving’ cancer wasn’t enough:
The definition of a survivor is ‘one that is of some function or is of some use’. It didn’t feel right to be called a survivor. We needed a new word for survivor and a new experience for the sufferer.
Justin was determined to ‘thrive’ rather than merely survive his cancer experience. A cycling addict, Justin took to the bike every day, even if only for two minutes, he would ride. It was his escape. His way of telling cancer that it was not in charge of his day or the determinant of what he would and would not do.
In the midst of his gruelling treatment schedule of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the need to revolutionise the end-to-end experience for cancer patients was glaring at Justin like a beam of light, he explains:
“Cancer is a hugely disempowering experience. I was in a world where people were speaking a foreign language. I’d gone back in time. In a world of technology and amazing breakthroughs, I was at a loss that it was up to a hospital to determine the appropriate experience for a cancer sufferer. It was paper based, fragmented and all in all quite a dispassionate induction. There is not one standard of care. It differs depending on which city or country you live in, what type of cancer you have and how much money you have.
There are moments in ones life when clarity falls upon them with such heaviness and clarity. The need for a patient revolution within cancer was simply glaring.
And so he created Thrivor, a non-profit organisation that aims to set a global standard for the treatment of cancer patients so that they, their families and caregivers are given the best possible chance to thrive during their cancer experience.
“You can’t change the physical, emotional and intellectual toll of cancer. But we can change everything around it, starting with one’s cancer experience, so that they can focus solely on the effort required to beat cancer, not all the distractions that occur when one enters the health system, which is well intentioned but horribly inefficient and sub-optimal for the patient at a hugely vulnerable time in one’s life,” explains Justin.
“Thrivor is about joining the dots in your cancer experience, from the medical system, to childcare, to specialist meetings. Technology will be at the forefront. Think of it like Trip Advsor – a roadmap with everything patients need to navigate their way through from beginning to end.”
Now this may sound like some pie in the sky kind of idea. But there’s no mucking about where Justin is concerned. It has only been just over a year since he was diagnosed, but he’s already collaborating globally with the medical community, insurance companies, investment banks, patients and carers to work out what the standard should be and roll it out.
He has the support of the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre and Cabrini hospitals in Melbourne, advertising firm M & C Saatchi, investment banks, Livestrong Foundation and even Princess Dina of Jordan, with the roadmap to potentially be trialled at a hospital with 7,500 cancer patients in Jordan. PWC has also led research to identify moments that matter for cancer sufferer, versus those that matter most for the health system.
By building a standard we can get better results for patients, morbidity rates and enable the health system to provide a better service and operate more efficiently.
This is a roadmap could also apply to patients suffering other illnesses, to children’s hospitals too. The sky really is the limit.
Global bike brand Rapha has gone all out to throw its support behind Justin and Thrivor, producing ‘No Plan B: from Cancer to Corsica – a raw, compelling documentary about Justin’s cancer experience finishing with a bike ride in Corsica with his family and friends to close the chapter on his cancer experience and celebrate what lay ahead. At the top of every mountain they would stop and kiss the ground to rejoice and celebrate the gift of life.
I embraced pain I could choose. The symbolism of the bike is appropriate for life. You need people behind you, you can’t do it alone.
Justin most certainly cannot do this alone. Join me in supporting Justin and Thrivor by going to www.thrivor.com and sharing you cancer experience (or that of someone you love) and purchase a limited edition Thrivor cap, with 100% of the proceeds to go to Thrivor.
Please help us spread the word by ‘liking’, ‘commenting’ and ‘sharing’ this story with everyone you know.
C’mon Melbourne, let’s paint this town red!