As a trained coach, I tend to notice patterns more than I did, perhaps, in the past. I no longer see them as coincidences. Instead I look to see what opportunity the pattern may be calling for my attention.
Recently, I’ve come across a number of my followers in Social Media who have shared openly as cancer survivors that they are choosing to take a pass on the recommended follow up tests and scans that typically become part of the landscape of survivorship. I decided to check in with Tracy Whitworth, an oncology nurse, to see what she could share with my readers on this topic.
Tracy, is this an issue you’ve come across before with regard to survivors who reach a point where they choose not to follow recommended periodic checks as part of prevention of recurrence or a new cancer?
In our practice this is not a prevalent occurrence. Our clients are followed very closely by our survivorship support care services who work closely with the patient’s care team. Upon completion of treatment each patient is given the opportunity to meet with their survivorship support care personnel and a care plan is presented. The care plan is a brief synopsis of the care they have received. It also helps to provide healthy lifestyle recommendations to try and decrease the risk of recurrence and post-treatment expectations such as, “When should I follow-up?” or “What do I expect?”
We find this proactive versus reactive approach to survivorship is effective with our clients. Now does this mean that our patients are receptive 100% of the time? Of course not, but we continue to educate them on the importance of following up as recommended by their physicians for any office visits and preventative screenings.
One of the fears I’ve heard from survivors that holds them back is fear of recurrence. Some have had such a challenging time going through treatment the first time they feel they couldn’t do it again if they were diagnosed again. Therefore, some believe there is no point in getting follow up scans and tests.
If you had a chance to speak to a survivor like this, what might you explore with them combining your experience in survivorship and your new coaching skills?
I would first ask empowering questions to understand what their experience was and validate their concerns. I would then take the opportunity to educate them on any of the changes that may have occurred in the oncology service arena since they were treated and the importance of follow-up visits and cancer screenings. From there, we would explore together the specific barriers they are experiencing. Once this has been identified then I would focus on working with the client to help define what strategies may work for them to achieve the goal of moving through these barriers. Our ultimate goal is to keep our clients as healthy as possible and living life to the fullest as defined by them.