Providing Honesty and Encouragement as a Cancer Coach
I love volunteering as a Cancer Coach because I know firsthand how helpful it is to speak with someone who has been through a similar cancer journey as you. Seven years ago, before the Cancer Coach program began, I was fortunate to have a mentor when I was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent a bone marrow transplant. The doctors and nurses are phenomenal here at Roswell Park, but it was still so comforting to hear from someone who had actually been through it. I could ask any question, bring up any concern or display any emotion, and my mentor responded with honesty and encouragement.
After my treatment was over, I was presented with the opportunity to flip roles and be the coach for a woman going through her own cancer journey. She was having a really difficult time with her recovery, but I was able to provide that same support I had received and we are friends to this day. That’s what the Cancer Coach program is all about: making meaningful connections and sharing experiences.
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The Resource Center for Patients and Families at Roswell Park tries to match Cancer Coaches with a patient who went through a similar type of cancer or treatment. I enjoy coaching other BMT recipients because the road to recovery is very different than with other treatments. I’ve learned that it’s important to be straightforward and honest; sugar coating is not helpful. Yes, there are setbacks. It can be a long journey and it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable ups and downs. I tell the patients I coach that it’s normal to get frustrated but to understand that this is part of the process. I also encourage the patients I coach to be selfish. It’s okay to put life on hold and be taken care of for a change. Just focus on being positive and learning as much as you can about your specific disease.
Your experience is yours. No one will ever know exactly what you are going through. However, developing a friendship with someone who walked a similar road can be instrumental in coping with your cancer journey.
If you have been out of treatment for two or more years and are interested in becoming a Cancer Coach, please call The Resource Center for Patients and Families at 716-845-8659.