From a Cancer Coach: 10 Things You Might Not Know about Cancer Coaching

By Mélina Ladouceur on May 19 / 2020

[Cancer, Cancer Coaching, Caregivers, Families, Uncategorized]Comments

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over eight years since Cancer Coaching was first launched here in Ottawa!

As one of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s Cancer Coaches, I’ve had the privilege of seeing this service grow and change since the very start. What began as an idea to better help families facing cancer quickly changed into a fully developed program in Canada’s first Cancer Survivorship Centre, and is now a valuable health service available online and at several locations across the Ottawa region. It’s incredible!

Over the years, we’ve heard from many families about the unique way a Cancer Coach has walked with them in their experience with cancer. I’ve also been fortunate to fill that same role, helping my clients focus on what matters to them and build a plan to move forward. But even though our program has been around for almost a decade, there are still a few details some folks might not know about Cancer Coaching, or some of the unique ways a Coach can help. To continue to spread the word about this service, I’ll be diving a bit deeper into how Coaching works and sharing some interesting facts and experiences that make Cancer Coaching stand out in the healthcare world. (Note: These may also be of interest to people in your lives who may or may not have heard about Cancer Coaching at all!)

So let’s get started: here are 10 things you may not know about Cancer Coaching!

  1. Cancer Coaching is entirely supported by donations and fundraising. Thanks to the generosity of our community, the program is available at no cost to patients and families and there are no lengthy wait times.

This helps make Coaching as accessible as possible, as it removes a number of barriers patients often face when accessing a new service. When clients register to meet with a Cancer Coach, they usually have their first appointment less than a week after booking. Our services are available in person at the Maplesoft-Gumdocs Centre for Cancer Survivorship on Alta Vista Drive, as well as in Kanata, Orleans, Winchester and Arnprior (but please note, in-person operations are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) We also offer coaching by telephone and secure video chat, which is how all our clients are having their appointments now to abide by social distancing measures.

  1. Cancer Coaches are regulated health professionals with experience in oncology and training in health coaching.

Our Cancer Coaches are all regulated Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. We have all worked in oncology, some in a community setting and others within the hospital. Our Coaches have also completed specialized health coaching training, to ensure our approach helps put the patient in the driver’s seat. We each engage in ongoing professional development opportunities and are currently pursuing additional health coaching certifications.

  1. Coaching is available anytime during someone’s experience with cancer.

We are here and ready to walk alongside you and help you find your way. We offer Coaching at any point in someone’s cancer experience – at diagnosis, during treatment, in the post-treatment phase, or at end-of-life. Coaching is about harnessing what you can do in any situation to help yourself, and reconnecting with what is meaningful to you. This is possible regardless of where someone is in their experience with cancer, and often results in a powerful shift in how they face and live with the disease.

  1. We can help patients prepare for appointments with their oncologist, gain a better understanding of their diagnosis, and find ways to manage side effects.

Many newly diagnosed patients meet with their Coach so they can work together to prepare questions for their first few oncology appointments. Some of our clients are seeking to gain a better understanding of what their diagnosis means, and some are just looking to get as much as possible out of their time with their oncologist. Coaches can share reputable information and help their clients improve their health literacy skills, so they can feel more confident in evaluating the information they find online. In fact, many doctors tell us they know when a patient has received Cancer Coaching, because they come to their appointments better informed and more engaged in their treatment plan.

  1. We provide coaching to caregivers (spouses, an adult child, etc.) and support parents and their children when cancer comes into their lives.

Whether it be a spouse, an adult child, or a parent, we are here for all family members who want to improve their confidence in what they can do to help their loved one who has cancer. We support them with their personal health goals, and can help them come up with a plan to manage stress and reduce the risk of caregiver burnout. We also provide Coaching to bereaved family members to support them through grief, and to parents who have a child living with cancer (or parents facing cancer themselves and looking to help their kids cope.) For the past number of years we’ve run a six week program called CLIMB (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery) for kids who have a parent living with cancer: through art, conversation, and play, children are given a space to talk and to learn ways to cope with difficult feelings.

  1. We can help you plan for your return to work following cancer treatment.

Many of our clients seek Coaching when preparing to return to work following cancer treatment. We can support you as you ask yourself questions like, “when will I feel ready to go back? How will I approach my return to work…should I start part-time? What do I need to know about my insurance, how will I continue to manage side effects like cancer-related fatigue or brain fog once I’m back at work?”

  1. Coaches can help those living with advanced cancer find hope, make plans, and do something meaningful.

We work with patients who are living with advanced cancer, and those whose treatment is in the palliative phase. A Coach can provide support in many ways, by helping someone plan for the future and make important decisions, by connecting them to resources to make a will or plan for advanced care directives, or by providing information on what to expect as their disease progresses. We can also help someone explore how they can live a life that is meaningful to them, and help them find solutions to manage side effects to ensure the best quality of life possible, or help them identify and plan for a project they want to work on or something they’d like to leave behind for a loved one. The client decides what we talk about in Coaching – these are just some examples of ways that we have helped those approaching end-of-life.

  1. Coaches don’t give you the answers; they help you find your answers and develop unique strategies that work for you and your life.

Your Coach walks alongside you and helps you focus on the things that matter most to you. We promote empowerment and help people improve their sense of control when facing their or their loved one’s diagnosis, and can help you come up with a plan on how you will take charge of your health and well-being. In Coaching, you are at the center of your care and are actively involved in the conversation the whole time. We work with our clients to understand their strengths, how they view good health and well-being, and what that all could look like as they move towards their goals. Through Coaching, the client builds the skills they need to take their life back in spite of cancer.

  1. Coaching continues to be available to you during COVID-19.

Cancer Coaching remains available by telephone and secure video chat during the COVID-19 pandemic. With some of our clients facing delayed surgeries and treatments, and many coping with the uncertainty and stress caused by this pandemic, our Coaches are continuing to support our clients no matter what they need. During these unprecedented times, some are looking for help in making decisions, keeping themselves healthy, doing what they can to prepare for an anticipated surgery, and managing increased feelings of stress or loneliness.

  1. We’ve been changed because of Coaching, too!

The way we work as an organization is influenced by Coaching – we believe in a strength-based, collaborative approach when working with colleagues, donors and those wanting to help raise important funds for the Cancer Foundation. As Cancer Coaches, we learn so much from our clients everyday…I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that we all have the power in us for change, and we all have our unique path and strategies that will get us there.

My role as a Coach is all about helping you as you discover your own unique path, and I am so grateful to be able to do so for my clients each day. If you or someone you know is interested in meeting with a Cancer Coach, please get in touch with us at 613-247-3527 or coaching@ottawacancer.ca, or register yourself online at www.ottawacancer.ca/coachme. A referral from a physician is not required!

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