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Cancer Carers: Carers Couch founder Martina Clark’s mission to help cancer carers inspired by late friend

When Martina Clark helped look after a beloved friend during her final days of a cancer battle, she gained a unique insight into the life of an unpaid carer.

Anoula Galettis tragically died in 2015 aged 34 from lung cancer. Ms Clark, from Melbourne, then pledged to create a special scheme to help other carers of cancer patients.

Carers of people with cancer have to deal with unique challenges, Ms Clark discovered – from not knowing how long their loved one might live, to practical aspects like juggling their job with appointments.

Martina Clark who started Carers Couch and her friend Anoula.
Martina Clark, right, who started Carers Couch and her friend Anoula. (Nine)

“They have the same life as the patient but are not recognised as such,” she said.

“They have to organise patient care, appointments, travelling, being part of all that,

“With cancer you don’t know how long they’re going to be around – you get told six months they live six months, or six days.

When Martina Clark helped look a beloved friend with cancer her in her final days, she gained a unique insight into the life of an unpaid carer.
When Martina Clark helped look a beloved friend with cancer her in her final days, she gained a unique insight into the life of an unpaid carer. (Supplied)

“I didn’t understand our support options.”

Ms Clark has created a website and app called Carers Couch.

It aims to connect carers with people who can help make their lives easier.

That can be as simple as putting them in touch with somebody to mow the lawn or cut their hair at home, during a time when organising things themselves might be taxing.

It also puts users in touch with other carers.

In 2018 there were 2.6 million unpaid carers in Australia, according to the ABS – and almost 150,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2020.

Carers Couch aims to help people looking after friends or relatives with cancer.
Carers Couch aims to help people looking after friends or relatives with cancer. (Supplied)

The services on offer are a combination of free and paid-for support.

“The app allows carers to pretty much go shopping for support,” Ms Clark said.

“They can go on the app, book experts directly, supporting the emotional, physical, economical aspects, and they can book them 24/7.”

Martina Clark who started Carers Couch and her friend Anoula.
Martina Clark, left, who started Carers Couch and her friend Anoula. (Nine)

Renowned hospital Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation in Melbourne is now trialling Carers Couch with lung cancer patients.

When mother-of-two Caitlin Delaney was diagnosed with ovarian cancer five years ago, aged 39, her husband Kevin MacIsaac was thrust into life as a carer.

When father-of-two, actor Kevin MacIsaac's wife Caitlin Delaney was diagnosed with ovarian cancer five years ago aged 39, he was thrust into life as a carer.
When father-of-two, actor Kevin MacIsaac’s wife Caitlin Delaney was diagnosed with ovarian cancer five years ago aged 39, he was thrust into life as a carer. (Supplied)

He looks after his wife when she’s physically sick, and the actor has to turn down work to be there for appointments, take care of the kids, and handle domestic duties.

The successful actor who has appeared in movies including Peter Rabbit 2, theatre and television shows, said connecting with other carers has been one of the most useful aspects of Carers Couch.

With his wife’s cancer classed as stage four, he described their lives as “a constant cycle of kind of fear, anxiety and celebration”.

“It plugs you into other people who do know what you’re going through and can sort of shoot the breeze and blow off steam with each other,” he said.

“Every three months we play a life-or-death game, waiting to find out if she gets the same treatment, or if the disease has progressed, and then we need to find something else.”

He said it also has helped the family discover financial aid on offer.

When father-of-two, actor Kevin MacIsaac's wife Caitlin Delaney was diagnosed with ovarian cancer five years ago aged 39, he was thrust into life as a carer.
When father-of-two, actor Kevin MacIsaac’s wife Caitlin Delaney was diagnosed with ovarian cancer five years ago aged 39, he was thrust into life as a carer. (Supplied)

Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation said it is currently recruiting people for the trial of Carers Couch.

“Working with Carers Couch means we can better understand what the caregiver’s needs are once the patient leaves the safety of the hospital,” Director of Prevention and Wellbeing Geraldine McDonald said.

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