On October 22, 2019, CURE published an article titled, "Hiring a Cancer Coach: What You Should Know". The article touches on the topics of fees, specialties, and expertise. All of those things are very important when considering a coach of any kind. As a cancer doula, I was mentioned in that article and I would like to bring awareness to WHY a cancer doula is needed. People need to understand the WHY and HOW a cancer doula can help to improve one's outcome, quantity of life, and quality of life.
During my cancer treatment, I noticed a gap. Even though I had a great oncologist and he took the time to talk with me and answer all of my questions, something was missing and that something was having someone to talk to who had been on a similar journey. Someone who could guide me along the twists and turns. Someone who could provide the type of emotional support that I was seeking. Even when I entered survivorship I could have used a little extra help. That moment that you realize that you will no longer see your doctor every week or every other week can be a shock. You can be left feeling abandoned and uncertain about the future of your life, health, relationships, and career.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is often a devasting surprise and the most stressful events one ever experiences. Feeling overwhelmed, depressed, at a loss for explanations, and bewildered by how to navigate a complex healthcare system is a perfectly normal response. But you don’t need to travel this road alone. Nor should you. There is incredible strength in having a partner who understands your situation, who can help you navigate your cancer treatment journey, who can remind you to celebrate key milestones and identify coping mechanisms for the strenuous uphill climbs. Having this kind of coaching has been shown to outperform simple advice-giving based approaches in 80% of clinical trials. It has been shown that providing more information about the diagnosis can help you make informed choices about treatment, enhance your understanding of the disease and treatment options and encourage adherence to treatment and follow up has been shown to help improve mental health outcomes.
Cancer affects your physical health and it can bring up a wide range of feelings you’re not used to dealing with. You may find it difficult to deal with your partner’s response or to explain your illness to their children. You may find it difficult to choose the right hospital or treatment. You may find it difficult to control stress, anxiety or depression. You may also find your existing feelings seem more intense. It is important that you do not let these emotions consume you or put your personal relationships in turmoil. I will help you work through your emotions, focus on problem-solving strategies in a supportive environment, work through grief, fear, and other emotions, and prevent you from getting stuck so that you can focus on healing. By doing so, you may find that this life-threatening crisis may turn out to be an opportunity for life-enhancing personal growth.
Not having an outlet for your questions, concerns, and struggles can lead to isolation, insecurity, and depression. It is important to talk about things even when it is hard. I am a trusted shoulder to lean on and a confidential, non-judgmental ear to support you on what could otherwise be a very lonely journey. I create a safe space to talk about things that you might normally be uncomfortable talking about. I also serve as a partner in helping to identify solutions.
Looking beyond your present condition and thinking about your long-term goals and vision is a great way to create a sense of hope and help you to focus on something other than cancer. Hope empowers you to strive and grow even when your circumstances are not the best. I will help you to create meaningful goals or help you to determine what has prevented you from reaching goals, hold you accountable, and help you to move past the barriers.
Whether you are newly diagnosed & in treatment, in survivorship, or you are a caregiver, having a cancer doula is very beneficial to your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others in your life. All cancer patients desire to have their “whole selves” treated and taken care of but most of the time doctors miss the mark and they settle for one-sided care. As a cancer doula, I will close the gap and make it easier for the “whole person” to be treated by taking care of the emotional side of cancer - increasing your chances of a positive outcome.
1] Rubak S, Sandboek A, Lauritzen T, Christensen B. Motivational Interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract. 2005;55(513):305-12.
 American Psychological Association, Breast Cancer; how your mind can help your body, October 2011.