Cancer Coaching and What It Can Mean for Both the Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patient and the Long-Term Survivor

Coaches come in many forms. Life coaches. Weight loss coaches. Business coaches, relationship coaches and executive coaches. But where does cancer coaching fall into this? In a nutshell, it could be the light at the end of the tunnel… the lighthouse in the fog… the shelter from the storm… a helping hand.

 
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As I think back, there was a time when a cancer coach was exactly the support I craved… I just didn’t know it yet. To this day, the memory remains vivid …

 

 “….What did she say? How is this happening? I could feel the heat crawling up my chest, on my neck and burning my cheeks. The doctor continues, “... large tumour… margins...”. I can’t focus. I’m not ready for this; it’s not supposed to happen this way! " Cancer…… blood tests…”, she drones on. Deep breath, keep it together, don’t lose it… on and on she goes, until finally, “I’ll see you before surgery.” With that I am dismissed from the surgeon’s office. I make my way in a daze to my car so I can fall apart. The full power of the nightmare in which I find myself washes over me and the tears begin to flow. It takes a full hour before I can even consider going home to my kids. I sit in the parking lot with tears running down my face as I watch people leave the medical building … smiling and laughing … Just when I think I have it together, another wave hits me. As the clock nears 6 pm, I realize I have to go home to my kids; they’re waiting. I turn the key in the ignition and take a peek in the mirror at the crazed, red eyed woman staring back at me. “Get your shit together, they can’t see you like this”.

 

As a newly diagnosed cancer patient or long-term survivor, this may sound familiar to you. The panic. The fear. The anxiety. The drowning in a sea of utter terror.

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As a little bit of the fog begins to clear, you may think to yourself, “What the hell do I do next? There must be something I can do besides bouncing from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment?” This is where a cancer coach comes in.

You may be wondering what the heck is a cancer coach? And more importantly, why would I need one? Well, I thought it was time to address this issue so things seem a little bit clearer and you get a better picture as to why cancer coaching could be one of the most important investments you make in your lifetime. 

So back to the very beginning, what is coaching? Well, the folks at Wikipedia say:

Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.[1]

So a coach provides training and guidance. During a time when the shit is hitting the fan, it sounds to me like you could use someone in your corner.

Next question… how can this help with cancer?

 Well, let’s face it, doctors are often run off their feet. Dr. Brian Goldman, a physician of 30 years and host of the podcast White Coat, Black Art, explained in a recent CBC article that: “[F]eeling that constant pressure of a ticking clock means I need every encounter with patients to go as quick and as smooth as possible.”[2] He also noted that according the recent news, “a third to half of all doctors have at least some symptoms of burnout.” As much as they want to be able to give their patients the time it would take to go over all of the lifestyle and dietary changes necessary to have a better treatment outcome, they just don’t have the time. This is where a cancer coach would come in. A coach fills the gap. The no-man’s land between what your doctors are doing for you conventionally and what is possible for you to do on your end. Cancer sucks. There are no two ways about it, but as an active participant there are many benefits to be gained from working with your own personal cancer coach.

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What’s in it for you?

 That is the most important question that needs answering, am I right? After all, after a diagnosis, it IS all about you. What you need. How you feel. What you want to do going forward. The best thing you can do as a newly diagnosed member of the cancer survivor club is to get educated. However, the last thing you want to do when your head is swimming, is get lost on Google. This is also where your coach comes in. Education is vital. So some of the changes you can expect while working with a coach may include:

  • You’ll get educated. A coach will advise you as to how to minimize side effects and risks factors and a coach will work with you so you can better understand your disease.

  •  You’ll regain a sense of control over your life. I can attest to the fact that this seems to be one of the first things to go.

  •  You’ll improve your nutrition and lifestyle habits. A coach will provide a cancer nutrition plan as well as make appropriate and effective lifestyle recommendations. With an active strategy in place, remission and a reduction in side effects from your cancer and treatment (such as cancer-related fatigue) will be encouraged.

Now, as a fellow survivor who has walked a mile in similar shoes, all of that sounds pretty good to me. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Benefits of Cancer Coaching

Some of the benefits you may experience through cancer coaching include: 

  • Through risk assessments, better understand where you are, how you got there and, most importantly, how to lessen the risk factors in order to lower the risk of future recurrence or secondary cancers.

  • Have a place to unload. A cancer coach is there to listen, listen, listen so feel free to unload. A cancer coach will provide a non-judgmental, confidential safe harbour for you to express your feelings.

  • Preparing for treatment. Researching and understanding your particular cancer type and your treatment options; dealing with common side effects to your medicine and treatment.

  • Getting through the experience. Knowing what to expect before and after treatment; managing activities of daily living that will have to continue throughout treatment; learning new coping skills; managing stress.

  • Added support. In a cancer coach, you will find an advocate, accountability partner, mentor, cheering squad, sounding board, nutritionist, educator and strategist.

The Bottomline

 I truly believe the late great Gord Downie hit the nail on the head with the song title “Tired as F***” because that’s what it feels like. Overpowering fatigue. Bone crushing fatigue. A crawl-under-your-desk kind of fatigue. A zero bandwidth kind of fatigue. If there’s even one iota of a chance that there are things that you can do to lessen that fatigue, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

That’s what a cancer coach is for. A cancer coach can assist you as you go through the maze that is cancer. A cancer coach is effectively just another member of YOUR cancer-fighting team. The one who attempts to fill the information gap that happens when you have a monster team of health professionals who have no time to deal with issues that are outside of their specialty. A coach makes sure that you don’t have to go it alone. 

In my experience, I have learned, “the coaching process will help you move beyond your confusion and feelings of fear and overwhelm. You will regain your self-confidence, stability and a sense of being in control of your life.” (Professional Cancer Coaches International Inc.) 

Well said.

If you’d like to know more, click here for a 30-minute Cancer Coaching Discovery Session and we can chat. In the meantime, I truly hope this sheds more light on what a cancer coach is and what you can expect from working with one. As a survivor, what you do during this time is just as critical as the treatment you’re going through so throw everything you’ve got at this thing. Like I said, it may be one of the most important investments you’ll ever make.

 As always, today’s choices create tomorrow’s results.

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