Young widow develops support app to honour husband’s dream after cancer battle

Lauren Smith and David Janetzki MP

Widowed at just 21, Lauren Smith is on a journey to turn her heartbreak into hope as she works to fulfil her and her late husband Jake’s dream of helping others. 

Mrs Smith and her childhood sweetheart Jake were inseparable during Jake’s brave yet brutal ten-month battle with cancer in 2019. 

It was during this time the Toowoomba couple came up with the idea of the Heartfull app, a tool designed to equip families and friends to provide the best support possible to their loved ones in challenging times. 

“We know that when life is tough, it is so vital that you are surrounded by a beautiful support system of family and friends,” Mrs Smith said. 

“We knew there was an abundance of people who would help us if we asked, the problem was that when I suddenly needed to ask for help – I remember one day I desperately needed washing powder but was unable to leave Jake – I wasn’t sure who would be available or willing and I would end up being too afraid to ask,” she said. 

“Our hope is that Heartfull takes away the stress and fear of directly asking for help and allows the focus to be more so on helping your loved ones rather than the details of the crisis itself.”

The Heartfull app allows the main caretaker to create a customisable profile and sets out the various ways your family and friends can help.

They can request help for tasks such as picking up groceries, delivering medications and mowing the grass. Family and friends subscribed to their loved one’s profile can then assign themselves to a task. 

Mrs Smith said the caregiver can post medical updates to their support community, rather than sending individual messages to everyone.

“It saves your precious time, especially when things in your world are changing so quickly,” she said.

“There is also a calendar which could be used to show when the person would or would not like visitors, mark any significant appointments or milestones and note which days meals might be required.”

October 19 marked the second anniversary of Jake’s death, as Mrs Smith channels her energy into making Heartfull while riding the daily waves of grief and gratitude. 

The Toowoomba couple had enjoyed just five months of married bliss before Jake became extremely unwell in January 2019 and shortly after was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of Lymphoma.

He was already in the fourth and final stage.

Mrs Smith said their lives as newlyweds quickly turned upside down and doctors, hospitals, treatments, procedures, surgeries, and illness became their new normal. 

“We held onto each other like never before and we protected our roles as husband and wife over that of patient and carer,” Mrs Smith said. 

Mrs Smith stopped working to be her husband’s fulltime carer. 

Mr Smith suffered terribly during his many rounds of chemotherapy treatment, suffering the side effects at their worst and vomiting all day for weeks on end. 

Mrs Smith was constantly washing, and she unexpectedly ran out of washing powder one weekday morning. She was unable to leave Jake home alone to make a quick trip to the shops. 

“I remember thinking that there were so many people who had previously offered help, but who would genuinely be free and willing to buy washing power for me at the last minute and drive it out to our house,” she said. 

“I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a tool that helped navigate these things, and the vision for Heartfull sparked. 

“The love and willingness to help was there from friends and family, and the need was there, but there was a gap between the two. 

“Heartfull aims to bridge that gap by helping friends and families channel their love and support in a way that is meeting yours and your loved one’s needs.”

Mrs Smith is seeking donations to help develop the Heartfull app. 

“One of Jake’s parting wishes to me was that I need to make Heartfull happen,” Mrs Smith said.

“I am in awe of how special things can come from the most challenging times,” she said.

“If Heartfull can help one family navigate life’s challenges a little easier, then my heart will be full.”

If you would like to donate or find out more information about Heartfull, visit heartfull.com.au

Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki MP said the development of this app would help connect family and friends in times of great distress and need.

"I encourage anyone who can get behind the development of this app to do so, to support Lauren and her family, and honour Jake’s legacy,” Mr Janetzki said.