Dr Bram Kuiper and Door Vonk have believed in the Untire app as an effective digital treatment for fatigue and cancer since day one. Door admits that having the app tested by users across the world did cause some nerves. ‘People who don’t know you suddenly have to give their opinion on your product. Fortunately, we received enthusiastic feedback from users straight away. It makes your work so rewarding when people say it’s exactly what they have been looking for.’
The journey to Untire took longer than expected. They have had to brave the necessary hairpin bends, bumps and obstacles along the way but it was all worth it. ‘Ten years ago, we could not have predicted this level of success.’
Their brainchild, Tired of Cancer, is a flourishing company with employees who have expertise in digital healthcare. Cancer patients and survivors are the focus of Tired of Cancer. Untire’s digital treatment programme is now used by thousands of people across the world, and its popularity is increasing. Fatigue is the most common problem among cancer patients and survivors and it has a huge impact on their quality of life.
From Edinburgh Castle to Big Ben
Dr Bram Kuiper translates it into figures. Each year, about 375,000 people across the UK are told they have cancer; that’s around 1000 people every day. ‘80% of cancer patients suffer from fatigue during their first year of treatment. One in three patients experience fatigue symptoms for much longer than that.’
If you lined up every person with cancer related fatigue in the UK and got them to hold hands, that line would extend from Edinburgh Castle right down to the Big Ben in London. ‘Cancer fatigue doesn’t get a lot of attention. Doctors often assume that fatigue is a normal part of living with cancer – at least in the first year – and that little can be done about it. Patients think the same.’
Losing his own father to pancreatic cancer made him realise just how much cancer impacts your life. As a clinical psychologist at VUmc, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, he has supported many people with their cancer journeys. ‘Cancer affects your identity and the very core of your existence.’ If you struggle with severe fatigue on top of that, your life is severely disrupted. We wanted to use our knowledge and experience to do something about that.’
Bram’s 30 years of experience as a psycho-oncologist gave him the idea to develop an accessible solution to help patients manage their fatigue more effectively. An app seemed to be the obvious way to achieve that.