After a couple of flirts with death, Natalia Lumen created an app for those with thyroid issues
Of all the places a budding entrepreneur can come to their aha moment, Natalia Lumen found hers face up in an operating room.
The Kiev, Ukraine, native was working for a consulting firm in Singapore when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She underwent two surgeries and ultimately had her thyroid removed. If you struggle to point out where the thyroid is located on a human body (the neck), you might be surprised by the trials that come with not having one.
“It’s actually a critical organ in the body,” Lumen says on a phone call with BCBusiness. “It’s located in the neck and is responsible for the function of every single cell, metabolism, heart rate, energy, memory—basically, everything is orchestrated by this organ.”
Lumen began taking hormone medication every day to counter the realities of not having a thyroid. But because the medicine is so particular, she found herself running into numerous problems.
“I immediately went from devising strategies for Fortune 500 companies to realizing that there are more than 400 million people who have some sort of thyroid condition,” Lumen recalls. “Only 60 percent of those people are aware of it. So I spent the last couple years learning about the thyroid, what it is, why it’s important, how many people struggle with it.”
Lumen moved to Vancouver with her husband, a Vancouver Island local she met in Singapore, just over a year ago. That was a few months before she launched ThyForLife, an app that helps people with thyroid issues safely and meticulously track changes in their medication and blood levels.
“Typical thyroid patients get a lot of symptoms—fatigue, memory loss, brain fog—if it’s not treated properly and if people don’t take the right dosages,” Lumen says. “On the outside, it’s a perfect science, taking medication every day. But in reality, even a 10-percent dosage change can greatly affect one’s well-being. And medication needs to be changed throughout life, with weight gain or loss and aging and other life factors.”
Lumen and her 10 remote employees recently saw some international recognition, when ThyForLife took silver in the Women-Led Startup in Tech of the Year category at the WomenTech Global Awards earlier this month.
Currently, ThyForLife is available on Google Play, and Lumen hopes to get it to all Android and Apple devices early next year. So far, the app has seen about 4,000 downloads, though a quarter of those users log on every day.
In the short term, Lumen also aims to partner with a national health organization or two to spread her message. Her long-term goal is a fair bit loftier: “We’re hoping to help the more than 400 million people around the world with thyroid problems thrive every day by having them use our tool and get peace of mind with the mobile app.”