As I write this, I have a few days left until I retire. I have been so blessed with the amazing people and opportunities that I have known during my 27 years with UPS. Many people struggle with retirement and there was a time when I was worried that I would be one of them. But UPS has given me the best retirement gift ever…the opportunity to retire early enough to chase my dreams.
Today, 1 in 3 people will face cancer in their lifetime. ONE IN THREE. Think about that the next time you are sitting down at the dinner table with your family and friends or in a business meeting. Think about that when you look at your children. That is why I have chosen to spend the next chapter of my life working to ease the challenges of cancer. I am a cancer coach.
“You are a WHAT???? “
Health coaching is still a relatively new concept, but it is starting to become recognized as a very effective way of managing health challenges on an individual level. The International Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches definition is:
“Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness and, thereby, enhance well-being. In the course of their work health and wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.”
Cancer coaching is a subset of health and wellness coaching that follows the same principles but is specific to cancer issues. Coaches can assist cancer patients, caregivers and former cancer patients. There are multiple stages in a cancer journey and each stage presents opportunities where a cancer coach can help. The Cancer Journey has a cancer journey map that identifies some of these stages:
• Innocence: You have not had any type of cancer diagnosis; you care about prevention. Lifestyle habits in terms of nutritious meals, stress reduction and exercise can be addressed with your coach.
o Personal training and corrective exercise
o Life coaching
o Health and wellness coaching
• The Call: You or a loved one receives a diagnosis. In addition to the lifestyle habits from innocence, a coach can help you with spiraling emotions and confusion. They can be a part of your allied medical team to help you implement strategies identified by your medical team.
o Cancer exercise training specialist (training specific to the needs of cancer patients)
o Culinary nutrition expert (nutritious recipes)
o Christian Life Coach (dealing with emotions and coaching through fears)
• The Pit: This is where you are confused and scared; you do not understand what all of this means. You do not want to be a burden to your family but you need someone to talk to about your emotions and your concerns.
o Everything listed above
o Financial coaching – budgeting for time off from work during treatment and looking for available resources for help
• Recovery – prevention strategies are crucial here too, but there are emotional issues associated with life after cancer and it is important to work with exercise specialists who understand the special needs of cancer patients
o All of the above plus learning to live your life without the constant fear of cancer
o Continued coalition with your allied medical team in implementing continued care and prevention strategies
In November, 2017, the American Institute for Cancer Research published an article referencing a study showing 42% of cancer diagnoses and 45% of cancer deaths are attributable to lifestyle related risk factors. This correlates to 659,640 cases and 265,150 deaths linked to factors that are controllable. A cancer coach can work with you to identify the factors that you would like to change and identifies ways to make change achievable and sustainable. As an example, another study showed that you can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 11% by eating 3 more servings of vegetables per day. That is a manageable change.
Stress is another controllable factor that can contribute to cancer risk and it is one of the biggest issues facing patients with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer coaches are not cheerleaders; we help you to face your emotions and deal with them in a positive and constructive way. If you are overwhelmed with fixing nutritious meals that are suggested by your medical team, we can find solutions to making it easier. Finances can also be a source of stress with a cancer diagnosis. A cancer coach can guide you with budgeting and planning to help minimize your concerns. If you want to exercise but are not sure how, a cancer coach can help you with appropriate exercise as cleared by your doctor.
Remission and recovery seem like the easy part of the cancer journey, but that is not always the case. At times, the fear of a relapse or limitations from your treatment can be overwhelming. A cancer coach can work with these concerns and help prepare you for life after cancer. Lifestyle factors are as important after cancer as they are before. A cancer coach can help you with nutritious recipes and snack ideas. A cancer exercise specialist can help you with postural corrections to minimize pain and plan an exercise progression that is safe and minimizes the risk of lymphedema.
A coach is not a consultant, she is your guide on the side. A coach works with you, on your agenda, to find what works for you, the individual.
Everyone has their unique story with cancer. I had a very brief and mild brush with cancer, but it was controlled thanks to early detection. I have also lost my father and a very dear friend, Linda Osborne, to cancer. I can list numerous friends and family who are survivors. While my cancer journey was short and easy, seeing the impact on my friends and family has left an indelible mark on my heart. These people are the motivation behind this next chapter in my life.
I have a quote that has been my inspiration for most of my life:
To laugh often and much, to win respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. Ralph Waldo Emerson
This will be the measure of success for my next chapter. Whether it is a person who prevented cancer or any chronic disease, a person who faced the cancer journey or a caregiver, if I can make a difference to at least one person, my legacy will be fulfilled.
Thank you, UPS, for more than you will ever know. I have learned so much and I will always continue to overdeliver service. I will always “bleed brown”, but it is time for me to leave my own legacy. Thank you for opening the door to my next journey.
Coach Laura, NBC-HWC