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Guest blog: It all started with a hat

AllClear Team
Last updated 15 April 2021

Friend of AllClear, Avril, tells her very personal story about setting up Cancer Central, a centralised source of cancer information from point of diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

I was going to lose my hair and was nervous about buying over the internet as I didn’t know the size of my head. Besides I was off work so thought about making a bit of a day of it. A spot of lunch, some hat shopping and a pick me up.

After using a famous search engine for 2 hours, I was perplexed. I could only see results of hat shops to visit in the United States. All very nice but I lived in Eastbourne, England. Surely there was a way to drop a pin on a map and see all support available around me? Having made a career in the technology industry I’d like to think I was pretty savvy, but on this occasion, I was frustrated, upset and felt I had failed.

There were more mysteries

I seemed to only find out about incredible business and charities by chance, through new friends. Chatting in a chemo ward or the waiting area, we had a new bond, sharing discoveries. I stumbled across the Willow Foundation this way. I certainly wouldn’t have typed ‘diagnosed-with-cancer-under-age-of-40-nice-day-out’ into a search engine. That sentence never entered my head, yet here I was discovering them by chance.

This cannot be right

It was at this moment the concept of Cancer Central was born and in January this year I took the brave step to 100% concentrate on finding a way to bring this information to those affected. I had 6 months’ worth of savings, but I knew a platform like this is needed. There must be a way.

Fast forward 10 months and what we have managed to accomplish is beyond my wildest dreams. The kindness and the support from the technical industry and those around has been phenomenal. Over 100+ individuals and 20 organisations have donated 10,000 hours to make Cancer Central a reality. Subject matter experts have contributed to everything from the ideas, suggestions, design, processes, build, testing, policies, data and so on. We are describing this new way of working as Cominovation (Community + Innovation).

Ask Ave

Cancer Central has been built with conversational search powered by IBM Watson to look for organisations who provide benefits advice, insurance products, counselling, complementary therapy, respite care, hats, wigs, lingerie, skincare, financial help, nutrition advice, local societies or communities, meals on wheels, books, blogs, forums, local hospital taxi services and so on, based on your location and cancer type. What we have now is basic conversation, but it is an exciting start. Ave, our digital employee will constantly learn and become smarter at signposting.

AllClear Travel

Have been a huge support. The wonderful team at AllClear Travel kindly spent time user testing and were one of the first to register on the site when we went live. I am so grateful for the support and help and wish to take this opportunity to thank them.

We are always looking for businesses and charities to register for free – www.cancercentral.org.uk.

Follow and support the journey from idea, to start-up and beyond @CancerCentralUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.




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