In my work as a cancer survivorship coach, a common theme emerged early on. Over and over again, survivors share their experience of the terrifying transition from end of treatment. While their care teams, family and friends gather around to celebrate, ring bells and complete other rituals, survivors often feel conflicted…grateful to end treatment but fearful over what life will look like moving forward.
Commonly, the metaphor survivors choose to describe this moment is that it is like being walked up to the edge of a cliff and being pointed toward a beautiful horizon on the other side of a bottomless chasm without any bridge in sight. All they see is a 1,000-foot drop below.
Last year, history was made. A bridge is under construction at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Phoenix to help their survivors create a path to recreate what’s next so they can more consciously design their life after being diagnosed with cancer.
In 2013, my advocacy efforts as an expert in cancer survivorship coaching expanded this awareness into a mission to up the ante in survivorship care programs and care plans. And then, the extraordinary happened. The leaders at iPEC recognized the opportunity too. Last June, iPEC officially launched its new 7th Level Wellbeing Division and I have the honor of being the Managing Director in addition to the work I do as a health advocate and coach.
In a bold step into what iPEC’s 7th Level Wellbeing division sees as the new frontier in survivorship care, Western recently enrolled their Survivorship Care Coordinator, Tracy Whitworth, RN, BSN, CHPN, OCN, in iPEC’s full coach training certification program as phase one in a unique pilot program. The pilot involves the creation of a model of survivorship care that is highly patient-centered and positions the patient (often referred to as the client by CTCA® staff) to approach survivorship from a place of empowerment. Arming their Survivorship Care Coordinator with iPEC’s unique Core Energy™ Coaching tools and approaches is the first step to embedding a coaching based approach to survivorship.
As Tracy’s journey to becoming a fully certified professional coach unfolded, I had the honor of sharing her story of transformation, both personal and in her role leading the implementation of survivorship care planning and programs at CTCA in Phoenix. Tracy’s passion for her work with survivors and her commitment to being extraordinary is inspiring. Tracy, welcome to the iPEC family and please give our readers some background about you.
My journey into nursing is one some may identify with. I entered into this profession some may say by chance. I say it was by destiny. At the age of 19 I had never been affected by any kind of disability, long-term illness or injury to myself or in my family that I could recall. It wasn’t until December of 1989 that my life was forever altered and my family and I experienced what it was like to have our way of life significantly changed. My older brother was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left him a quadriplegic at the age of 26. His skill set to financially support himself, his wife and his young daughters ages three and five, was truck driving.
The many months following were a blur, but I do remember many hospital visits, multiple doctor appointments without much guidance and support along the way. Our lives were filled with being on the road, sterile facility walls with no kindness or thought as to how this was affecting the patient and family as a whole. He was then discharged to his home and his family with the expectation that they would just pick up the pieces of their lives and continue on. I couldn’t help thinking there had to be another way.
That experience led me to where I am now. I feel this is where my passion lies in helping others advocate for themselves and to begin picking up those pieces of their lives to move forward. I discovered my life purpose is in assisting cancer survivors to discover they can take their life back and begin the process of traveling the road to recovery and wellness with confidence.
As the first Survivorship Care Coordinator to go through our full coach training program, what are you most excited about?
I am so excited at the prospect of being able to learn the steps to help our clients move towards taking their life back and along the way I know I will learn valuable tools to grow in positive ways for myself. In health care, we do so many things well and I happen to have the privilege of working for a company that cares for people exceptionally well. This is done by creating a culture that truly walks the talk of treating others as if they were our own family – it’s called the Mother Standard® of care. It will be so exciting to help our clients and their caregivers actually feel more prepared for this cancer journey they are embarking on by arming them with the skills needed to put them back in the driver seat of their life.
When you are confronted with a disease, a perceived loss of any kind, it’s very hard to move forward and not get stuck. Fear sets in and takes a huge hold on you. To be able to help these individuals to “bust” through that barrier excites me beyond words.
I can’t wait to share more about Tracy’s story and journey as it continues to unfold. Join us for Part 2 of this blog interview next week as I delve into the top challenges Tracy sees survivors facing during and after treatment and some of her new insights her introduction to Energy Leadership and iPEC is already generating.