Modern mobile mindfulness for the cancer journey

Lanie Francis kasdanl@upmc.edu

Abstract

I  am an oncologist with a strong appreciation for taking care of the whole person-mind, body, and spirit. When I lost my mother to cancer, I developed a perspective for the moment to moment suffering that patients and families face. I turned to mindfulness in that difficult time and it helped to soften rather than solve my struggles. There is strong evidence that mindfulness can improve sleep, anxiety, fatigue, pain--so many difficulties faced by cancer patients and their loved ones. However, telling a patient they should explore meditation is overwhelming and intimidating. We're lacking convenient tools to introduce patients to mindfulness in ways that are accessible both emotionally and logistically. Further, content focused on cancer coming from people that understand cancer is lacking.

I'll introduce a mobile tool for mindfulness created for patients with cancer to fit these needs. The mobile website functions as an app, but is free and simple for the most basic smartphone user. Named Kara, to accentuate 4 pillars of self-care (Kindness, Awareness, Rest and Allowing), the mobile website includes 12 guided meditations, a reflection section for sharing, and an overview of key principles of mindfulness. The 12-guided meditations include the 4 pillar meditations noted above and an additional 8 that are situational. The situational meditations highlight common challenges for cancer patients, for example, “I can’t sleep,” “I feel overwhelmed,” and “I feel like a burden.”

The collaboration to create the app is unique since it coupled experts in cancer care with experts in mobile mindfulness technology. Rohan Gunatillake, founder of Mindfulness Everywhere, a UK based design and technology studio, and creator of Buddhify agreed to the collaboration after I sought him out and told my story. Our teams worked together over 12 months faced with the question, how can mindfulness help along the cancer journey? We engaged patients, nurses, caregivers, designers, voice actors, and production staff. We realized our intention to be kind, non-judgmental and explanatory and to present a design element of energy and simplicity. We focused on ease knowing that the cancer journey is typically the opposite. The idea to use a mobile website that was free was intentionally patient centered.
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