Cardiff woman sets up ‘Amazon for cancer patient care’ following personal cancer loss, with sales doubling during pandemic

CancerPal, ‘the Amazon for cancer patient care’ has helped thousands of people access a specialised range of products and care boxes to ease the effects of cancer treatment since it was set up in 2019.

It offers a comprehensive range of cancer care products, making it easy for patients and their loved ones to buy. It also shares information, advice and tips to help people emotionally and physically navigate cancer treatment.

Founder Jo Riley, from Cardiff started the business after her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015.

Jo says: “When my mum was diagnosed, it was the first time I had experienced someone close to me having cancer, and I just didn’t know how to best support her. I turned to the internet and after hours of late-night research, discovered the cancer community and lots of specialist products that could help ease the side effects. Not only was I unaware that these products existed, but many were difficult to get hold of. Like anyone, I wanted to do everything I could to help make Mum comfortable, so I ended up finding out how I could import lots of these products from abroad.

“After my mum died in 2018 my job in sales felt meaningless, and I wanted to use the knowledge I had gathered to help other people. I launched CancerPal in 2019, to make it easier for other people to access and buy a carefully selected range of tried and tested products I knew could really help.”

360,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK and 80% of cancer care is provided by friends and family, often with little guidance or support. CancerPal’s mission is to empower and educate people around cancer care and make it easier to find products that can help with treatment.

Having moved online during the pandemic, the business has seen sales increase by over 100% during the last year, with more cancer patients and their friends and family able to access the unique range of products.

Product ranges

CancerPal’s range of practical, thoughtful and high-quality products are categorised by treatment type and symptom, based on strict research and recommendation. It offers both individual products and curated care boxes. Popular products include:

  • Onicolife Nail Drops and PolyBalm Nail Remedy – specifically developed to care for fragile nails that have been damaged by chemotherapy treatment.
  • Queasy Drops – developed by health care professionals to help ease the nausea associated with cancer treatments.
  • Satin pillowcases – gentler than cotton for fragile chemo hair plus kinder to skin and naturally cooling which is good for night sweats (another common side effect of many cancer treatments).
  • Udderly Smooth Cream – recommended by oncologists to help with uncomfortable skincare issues that are a common side effect of treatment.
  • Surgery cushions – to improve patient comfort post-surgery.

Business growth during the pandemic 

CancerPal was started from Jo’s back bedroom in Cardiff with a budget of £2,000, enough to create the initial care boxes and purchase a small amount of stock. Since then, products have been sold in 21 different countries, and Jo has expanded the business to hire marketing and communications director Claire Robertson-Adams.

After moving from Dubai to Cardiff, in fact next door to Jo, Claire became increasingly interested in CancerPal and its ethos to help, guide and support those helping their friends and loved ones through cancer treatment.

During the pandemic the business has shifted to an online model, allowing CancerPal to reach more people, with a 200% increase in website traffic over the last year. Future plans include increasing product ranges and product types.

Jo says: “A cancer diagnosis can lead to feeling out of control, and we are all about helping people to get some of that control back. We aim to remove the feeling of isolation and bring the support when patients need it. When Mum was diagnosed, all I wanted was someone to hold my hand – literally a pal to provide support. Doctors tell you what’s going to happen with your treatment, but it’s other patients that will tell you how to cope. It’s not rocket science, but it didn’t exist, and my hope is that we can be that support for other people.

“Cancer is still a taboo subject. Everyone that goes through it says they are surprised by the number of people that simply disappear. People don’t know what to say or do to help, so we wanted to build something that would be genuinely useful – both for patients, and for their friends and family so that they feel empowered to provide the best possible support they can.”

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