Breast Cancer: Cancer Coaches

Well I want to take a minute today and inform all of you about a concept that I have been working on for the past year and am about to unveil it to my current patients undergoing treatment. The name of the program is Cancer Coach. The purpose of the program is to give every single patient with a diagnosis of cancer the opportunity to have someone as their advocate from the time of diagnosis through the end of treatment and into follow up care.
As those of us that have been affected by cancer, we know how trying and scary the diagnosis can be to ourselves, our loved ones, and our family and friends. When you hear the words, “You have cancer” it changes ones life forever. It brings many thoughts and emotions. It may even strike fear deep within.
What if everyone that was diagnosed with cancer also had a person assigned to them to help them through their journey? A person that has medical experience but can relate to patients; their needs, their fears, their wants, their emotions. A person to help them navigate the confusing and fragmented health care system. A real life person to be their point of reference to help with everything from community resources and support groups, to insurance and finances, to the emotional well being, to the impact of family dynamics.
Would it help? Would it increase a patients ability to concentrate on getting better, staying positive, and fighting this disease head on?
I believe it would. So much so that I did the research on other programs. Whether it is the American Cancer Societies “Navigator” program or to more traditional “coaching” programs where other cancer survivors act as a contact person for those currently undergoing active treatment. All of these programs have good and bad points, but none of them really meet all of the needs of a cancer patient.
The program I have taken a year to create, and am now implementing will hopefully be dynamic and will alleviate all of the short comings that other programs have experienced.
This is how the program will work: At the time that a patient is called by their specialist and informed that they know have cancer, they will also be introduced to their Cancer Coach. At this point in time, the “Cancer Coach” will contact the patient either via phone if the specialist asks, or at the first appointment at the cancer center.
At the first introduction, the Cancer Coach will briefly introduce themselves to the patient and their family members and let them know that if their is any help, information, or issues that they are to contact their Coach immediately. The Coach will then begin to explain to them their role as a resource.
If the patient and/or family members decide that they would like to have the Cancer Coach take notes during their initial consultation with the Medical and/or Radiation Oncologist, then they may do so. The Coach has the ability to take notes on the conversation, the diagnosis, and other important information that is discussed during the consultation. The Coach will leave the room during the physical exam.
After the consult, the Coach can then follow up with the patient and family members and go over the notes and the treatment plan that was created for the patient. The Coach can also begin to coordinate schedules for any other tests or appointments that need to be made for the patient. If rides are an issue, then the Coach can begin to work on this issue as well. Perhaps there are some insurance questions, the Coach will begin to help answer and address these questions as well.
By the time a patient leaves, they will have a hand typed letter that simply explains what each physicians treatement plan is for their diagnosis. They will have the coordinated schedule in front of them as well to make it as convenient as possible for the patient. They will also have all the contact information for their physicians, the cancer center, as well as their Coach. This will allow any further questions or concerns to be addressed by the same person each time.
The Coach will be able to meet with each patient and follow up to make sure that all of the patients needs are being met. Perhaps the patient needs some help with quitting smoking, the Coach will be able to address this with programs that are offered with in the Health System or within the community. Maybe a patient is having difficulty eating, so the Coach can assess this and give suggestions, or if nutritional support is needed, that they can make arrangements with the appropriate staff.
The Coach becomes a partner with the patient to address any and all issues or help that the patient may need during their journey. By doing so, it will allow more time for the patient to concentrate on getting better. Leaving those things that we typically worry about such as work, insurance, money, how we are viewed by our loved ones and ourselves, and trying to navigate a dysfunctional health system to their Coach. Thus allowing a patient to concentrate on getting better and beating Cancer.
If you have any further questions or concerns, or would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me directly at: I will answer any and all comments or questions within 24 hours.

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