WiTT is Here to Help

Written by: Josiah Kopp

How Rahul Mahadevan’s battle with cancer inspired a way to help other patients

Cancer is something that affects the lives of so many loved ones around us. And while many people may find clinical support, one man discovered a critical issue while navigating his cancer journey.

Meet Rahul Mahadevan, Founder and CEO of We’re in This Together (WiTT). Rahul isn’t just a healthcare professional with over 23 years of experience, he’s also a cancer survivor and patient advocate. In 2021, while navigating his journey with prostate cancer, Rahul recognized a major issue: patients were opting to delay or skip treatment due to insufficient non-clinical support.

This realization spurred Rahul to establish WiTT, a registry-based platform addressing the diverse non-clinical challenges—financial and non-financial—that patients encounter during treatment. The primary objective was to alleviate the burdensome “daily living” challenges, allowing patients to focus on what was important—their health.

Working with reputable healthcare providers like Sanford Hospital, Rahul’s passion for technology, digital health, and oncology drove him to develop an innovative solution benefiting cancer patients and those dealing with chronic diseases.

Rahul Mahadevan
Rahul Mahadevan, Founder and CEO of We’re in This Together (WiTT)

WiTT, as envisioned by Rahul, makes it easy for patients to ask for the help they need by removing the “guilt” patients face, and making those needs visible to those who want to help. By doing these two things, patients can address the “activities of daily living” challenges they face, so they can focus on their treatment journey. He identified key issues during this time, including hesitance to seek help to avoid burdening others, constantly changing needs, making it challenging to articulate required assistance, difficulty in responding to well-intentioned offers of help that may not align with current needs, and witnessing the anxiety of fellow patients about receiving adequate support and maintaining their roles within their families.

WiTT aims to destigmatize asking for help and simplify the process for those wanting to assist their loved ones. The platform enables seamless requests for assistance, akin to creating digital post-its specifying needs. Others can see these requests and offer help, even sending money if needed. While initially focusing on cancer, the platform’s scope extends to encompass all patients requiring support, irrespective of their diagnosis. WiTT’s overarching goal is to extend a helping hand to less fortunate patients, providing essential financial and logistical support crucial to their individual journeys.

An Ecosystem of Care

Meet the people that help make WiTT possible

Jodi Satikunam, CPA | Dr. Shelby Terstriep
Jodi Satikunam, CPA | Dr. Shelby Terstriep

Both Jodi Satkunam, CPA and Dr. Shelby Terstriep are two integral pieces of the puzzle in helping make WiTT a possibility. Jodi is the Head of FinTech for WiTT leading the payments strategy for donations to be processed safely and securely. Additionally, she works closely with organizations to share WiTT with their patients to receive the support they need at no cost.

WiTT resonated strongly with Jodi when she first was introduced to the platform, having family members of her own who were going through their health challenges. “I’m passionate about WiTT because I’ve really seen the need for this, and WiTT allows people to feel comfortable asking for help when they need it,” she said. “WiTT takes the stigma away of asking for help while also being a platform that evolves with people’s needs because people’s needs change as they progress through treatment.”

Shelby is a Medical Oncologist at Sanford as well as the Medical Director of Survivorship. “There are so many added costs that go along with cancer treatment like travel, gas, co-pays, lost work,” she said. “We call it financial toxicity and it’s a huge problem—not only do we want to address chemo toxicity and radiation toxicity but also financial toxicity for our people.”

Shelby has seen the added stress this causes people, so she was excited to partner with WiTT to help connect patients with the platform. “I agree with Jodi in that people’s needs change over time, and WiTT is a great way for people to ask for their needs in a very organized way regularly— that’s what I love about the platform,” she said.

Additionally, WiTT creates unique Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) data that helps healthcare organizations and medical professionals like Shelby, identify non-clinical risk factors in their patient population. This helps them create effective programs, partnerships, and services that address these risks so patients have the right support at the right time in their patient journey.


Did you know?
42% of people deplete their life savings in the first two years of cancer treatment and 25% declare bankruptcy or lose their home to foreclosure or eviction (The 2017 Cancer Experience Registry Report).


Patient Testimonial with Heather Klug

 

Heather Klug

 

Can you introduce yourself to the readers and walk us through your cancer journey?

I’m Heather Klug—originally from Grand Forks, ND. My husband, Bill, and I moved to Fargo about 18 years ago—prior to my cancer journey, I was an executive assistant. I was diagnosed with slow-growing cancer in 2010. I was working as an executive assistant when the cancer became aggressive about a year and a half ago. I needed to start adjusting what I did because what I could do was very different than what I could do before. I love to travel so much—as much as finances, my health appointments, and my energy will allow.

In regards to the type of cancer I have, the first thing I want to do is clarify a common misconception—I have what is called Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), which is commonly confused with pancreatic cancer, which is a more aggressive type of cancer.

For the last 13 years, I had NETs in my liver—more recently, I have NETs in my bones, lungs, lymph nodes, as well as one in my skull bone. I have the same type of cancer that Steve Jobs had and not to be confused with the type of pancreatic cancer that Patrick Swayze had. It’s really quite rare. I’ve been getting treated at Sanford since I was diagnosed and am working with an amazing physician.

NETs are typically very slow-growing. But they also can flip the switch and become more aggressive—and that’s where I’m at right now.

What were your biggest non-clinical needs as you began seeking treatment?

I have a doctor at Mayo Clinic who is world-renowned for this type of cancer. But that also means I travel back and forth to Mayo frequently—often every two months—and travel expenses can add up quickly. We have had one treatment that we’ve tried that was not covered by the insurance company, so we’re going to have to pay for that ourselves. So there’s the financial aspect of it. But something that WiTT was different from and helped me with is that I could say, here are my financial impacts, here are the things that are on my mind, or that we’re going to need. Whether it was helping me with household tasks that I was too tired to do myself or driving me to appointments when my husband Bill wasn’t able to, WiTT allowed me to communicate my needs through its easy-to-use portal and connect me with people who can help meet my needs.

How significantly has WITT helped you receive the support you need?

WiTT has allowed me to tell others what I need monetarily, and otherwise, and even just that bigger scope. Being able to set up various categories of assistance is amazing. One of the things I love, too, is it allowed me to think my way through what I needed because I’ve never thought about that before.

What were the biggest needs that you had listed on your registry?

We’re still trying to live our lives while this is going on. It’s not just always about these doctor appointments—I would be disappointed if that’s all that we can do in potentially the last couple of years that we have.

Of course, there were a lot of financial needs like co-pays, but one of the things that I had listed on my WiTT registry was my “bucket list travel.” I’ve seen a lot more donations to this category than I ever expected.

WiTT is allowing me to have access and get feedback from people who I care about and who care about me. And it’s actually bringing some connection—people have reached out offering to do things like mow my lawn. By having a list of needs out there and people being able to see and say, ‘That’s something I can do.’—we would have never had that connection. It’s making the connection for us.

Why do you recommend WiTT to other patients?

The beauty of signing up for WiTT is that you can get your account verified through your doctor, so whether you’re the patient or someone wanting to donate, there are no risks and everything is very secure. And I love the transparency of seeing exactly what your needs are and how easy, and it’s completely FREE for me to use. WiTT doesn’t withhold a processing fee like other sites.


FM Breast Friends is a non-profit that supports local women diagnosed with breast cancer. We were introduced to WiTT last spring and were impressed with the platform, especially the applicants’ ability to identify their specific needs, both financially and in-kind. We are committed to continuing to support local women through our non-profit and are excited to see how WiTT evolves over the next year, enabling us to identify and reach even more women.”

Krystal Anderson, FM Breast Friends

Check WiTT out for yourself

  1. Create an Account
  2. Build your registry
    • Ask for everything you need in your WiTT Support Registry.
  3. Share your registry
    • Invite your family and friends to support you!

Learn more at wittforever.com or 1-800-550-1678

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Josiah is an Editor and Photographer at Spotlight Media in Fargo.