No one expects a cancer diagnosis, especially not before turning 30. This life-changing news was especially tough for Liya Shuster-Bier when it came just a short time after helping her mother undergo the same tough cancer treatments she had ahead of her. Luckily Liya had the positive attitude needed to overcome it, and see the silver lining in a cancer diagnosis: creating a digital health resource making cancer less lonely for people around the world. Liya didn’t get to that point without challenges along the way, and she shares her story from cancer diagnosis to CEO on this episode of Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories.
Seeing the Gaps
Life for Liya in 2016 looked a lot different than it does today. Then, she was finishing her business degree and building a career in impact investing. It wasn’t until a call on her way to her new internship that her life was shaken up. Her mom had breast cancer. All at once Liya dove into this new world as a caretaker while finishing school. Every doctor appointment brought new questions for both her and her mom, keeping what Liya describes as “the burden of keeping her alive” on the two of them, rather than the professionals they were surrounded by. At the time Liya made excuses and blamed their own shortcomings for the tough time they had navigating care, but she soon found out they were not alone in this industry-wide issue.
Embracing the Unexpected
Two years later Liya and her husband were heading out on vacation when she ended up in the ER for chest pains. After running test after test, they were about to let the “healthy” 29-year-old go when a doctor noticed a tumor. Just when Liya thought her hardships were winding down, she was thrown into cancer care once more, this time as the patient. Yet again, Liya saw the gaps cancer patients had to experience in their care. There were unanswered questions, difficult choices, and even with a physician as a husband she still felt lost at times.
For Liya an unfortunate relapse confirmed what she thought – professionals did not set her up for success, her own experience did. Even when friends reached out wanting to help, the only resources out there steered them to gifting pink socks instead of items that would make Liya actually feel seen – items she needed! Since Liya knew that she could not have been the only one with these challenges, she came up with the idea to productize the system she had built for herself.
Liya built Alula to be the support system every cancer patient deserves from day one. They are a whole health marketplace that acts as a registry, product marketplace, resource blog, and community of support. They aim to change the conversation around what is required for patients to heal. Today they’re actively growing to reach as many cancer patients as they possibly can, as early as they can.
What else can you expect in this episode?
- The types of questions cancer patients are expected to handle on their own.
- Why cancer patients sometimes quit treatment.
- How Liya worked hard to understand the connection between cancer and her physical and emotional state.
- Where there is stigma around cancer treatment, and the impact it can have.
- Liya’s experience building a business and the work rhythms she instills in her business today.
Where to find Alula: