The world of coaching is exploding and today you can pretty much find a coach for everything. There are life coaches, health coaches, business coaches, career coaches, leadership coaches, and of course, sports coaches.

But have you ever heard of a cancer coach? Now, you may be wondering, what on earth is a cancer coach and how can one help me? How do I know if I need a cancer coach, and where would I even look for one? Let’s get started with answering some of these questions…

What is a cancer coach?

A cancer coach’s role is to partner with you and help support and guide you throughout your cancer journey.  They can work with you during active treatment, remission, and survivorship. Cancer coaches can provide guidance, resources, knowledge of research studies, access to integrative therapy services, and an extra support system for both you and your family during a difficult time.

A cancer coach’s role is NOT to act as a replacement for medical care or advice but rather to assist you throughout your journey anywhere it takes you!

Most of what a cancer coach does can be done virtually via phone/skype or email but he or she may also meet with you in person if that is desired. A coach’s role is to provide a strong support network while working collaboratively with your medical professionals to promote healing and optimize your recovery.

What qualifications do cancer coaches typically possess?

Although there are no formal qualifications, cancer coaches typically have a good understanding of the disease and treatment protocols. In addition, they may have experience in other aspects of health care such as physical therapy, nutrition, alternative therapies, detoxification, or exercise, among others.

Often a cancer coach is someone who has gone through cancer themselves and is able to use their own experience to help others through their cancer diagnosis. The cancer coach may be a cancer survivor in remission, and through his or her journey, may have come up with tools and strategies to help others with cancer find ways to cope and dispel their fears.

Cancer coaches may also have experienced cancer indirectly, as caregivers for their loved ones with cancer.  This would allow them to assist others by providing the same type of support to cancer patients and their families.

As in my case, cancer coaches may be health care professionals who are using their medical background and expertise in oncology to help their clients create a roadmap towards cancer recovery.

In whatever way someone has fallen into cancer coaching, you can be sure they are passionate about supporting other cancer patients in navigating what can be a very overwhelming diagnosis!

What can I expect from a cancer coach?

You can expect your cancer coach to be someone who will listen empathetically, provide encouragement, offer guidance and helpful tools, as well as serve as a mentor with knowledge on coping and thriving with cancer.  

A cancer coach can guide you through all phases of your healing and recovery journey… essentially, all aspects of your life that you may feel are affected by or disrupted by your diagnosis. This may include help with issues such as sleep, fatigue, treatment side effects, nutrition, finances, self-care, sex, and intimacy concerns…the list could go on.

Your coach may even continue to be a source of inspiration and encouragement for years after treatment is over.

What types of cancers can a cancer coach help with?  

Cancer coaches may assist those diagnosed with any type of cancer – from breast cancer to ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer…the list goes on.  

Cancer coaches may be particularly helpful for those with rare cancers, metastatic disease, and those who have had a recurrence.

Although each cancer journey is as unique as the individual diagnosed, there are some common themes that many survivors face such as coping with the effects of treatment and secondary diseases/conditions…returning to work after treatment…emotional and intimate concerns, etc.

Regardless of the type of cancer you have or your age, there are always unique factors that will affect your recovery and therefore it is important to work with someone who has the specific skills needed to address these needs.  

Evidence for cancer coaching:

One question that may come up for you when considering whether or not to work with a cancer coach is, “What evidence is there that cancer coaching will even benefit me?”

A number of studies have been published looking at the efficacy of coaching in cancer patients. One study looking at cancer survivors who had completed primary cancer treatment showed that a web-based program with health coaching reduced psychological distress. 

Another study looked at a program called I.CAN which examined the effectiveness of tailored health coaching for cancer patients in providing varied physical activity and healthy food choices. The study found that at a 3-month review, program participants significantly increased exercise activity, also showing trends in positive food choices.

Benefits of a cancer coach:

A cancer diagnosis can bring your life to a screeching halt, and lead to changes in goals, future plans, and priorities.

Cancer patients can find some of the information provided by cancer coaches through books and internet searches, however, that involves sifting through a lot of information. It’s hard to know what information is trustworthy and what may not be. Additionally, when you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you may not have the time or energy to dive deeply into resources to support you in your journey.

This is where having a cancer coach can be a huge benefit. So, how can cancer coaches help you in your cancer journey?

1) Cancer coaches can help you identify the supports that you need to get through your cancer journey, and can provide you with the resources you need to cope with your cancer diagnosis. 

Many cancer coaches, through time and experience, have become familiar with helpful information for cancer patients. They have built up a so-called “Rolodex” of resources and can point you in the right direction depending on your priorities.

For example, if you are looking for a good meditation app to up your mindfulness game, a cancer coach will often know of one for you to try. Or, if you want to know what are some non-toxic cleaning products to replace your current ones, a cancer coach will be able to provide you with a list of these.

Cancer coaches can also help you determine how to approach conversations about your diagnosis with your children and loved ones.

2) Cancer coaches can assist you in setting goals by helping you become clear on your challenges. 

They can help you prioritize what is most important to you, and can help you tackle your main concerns or challenges. This may include helping you manage a behavioral change such as adopting a healthy anti-cancer lifestyle to optimize wellness.

If your main concern is finding the time to cook healthy, plant-based meals, a cancer coach can help you come up with solutions. These may include providing you with simple, easy-to-prepare recipes, or facilitating the outsourcing of some of these meals to friends and family that want to help.

A cancer coach offers support and accountability to keep you on track and manage stress levels. They can even liaise with your doctors or provide recommendations for questions to ask your health care team.

3) Cancer coaches can help you understand your treatment and organize your treatment schedule. 

Cancer treatments and schedules can be complicated, and chemotherapy cycles and the rationale behind them can be difficult to follow. Cancer coaches can help you understand why you are receiving certain chemotherapy regimens and how they work in your body.

Cancer coaches can help you understand your blood tests, changes in your body due to treatment, and what to expect during surgery.

This is often information that your medical team may be too pressed for time to go over with you. The cancer coach, on the other hand, is there specifically for you and wants to make your cancer journey as easy for you as possible.

4) Cancer coaches provide you with an outlet to turn to. 

Cancer can be a difficult diagnosis to come to terms with, stirring up a lot of emotions, such as grief, fear, and anger. Cancer coaches with a background in psychotherapy can help you put your emotions in perspective and come to terms with these feelings in order to reduce your anxiety.

Whether you have a new diagnosis or are a long-term survivor who has finished treatment, cancer coaching can give you the emotional support you need to get through your cancer journey and beyond.

If some of these issues are outside the scope of their practice, cancer coaches can refer you to a good therapist that can help you deal with these issues.

5) Cancer coaches can educate you on safe, evidence-based, complementary therapies to incorporate into your cancer healing journey. 

Cancer coaches can help you identify integrative treatments that may help you manage the side effects of cancer treatment, anxiety, and cancer pain. They can show you how to incorporate these integrative strategies into your healing plan and provide you with accountability as you make these behavioral changes.

They can also help you design a cancer recovery plan that works for you and your specific lifestyle.

How do I find the right cancer coach?

Different cancer coaches will have different areas of expertise… some may have a background in integrative medicine and specialize in mind-body therapies such as meditation, journaling, and acupuncture.

Whereas, others may have a background in nutrition and offer guidance on diet and food choices for cancer prevention, treatment, and beyond. Yet other cancer coaches may be experts in detoxification methods such as coffee enemas.  

Some coaches may assist those with less common cancers as they may have experience in coping and thriving with a diagnosis that isn’t always easy to find resources for.

Although all cancer coaches may overlap in their knowledge and experience, it is important to have a consultation call so you and the cancer coach can get to know each other, and determine if you are a good fit to work together.

You want to ensure that the coach you hire has the background and desire to focus on the things that you want to address. Just like any coaching relationship, it is important to ensure that you and your coach gel together.

Who is an integrative cancer coach most suited for?

Integrative cancer coaching is most suited for clients who are willing to work in partnership with the coach to implement the tools and integrative strategies that will encourage cancer healing. You and your coach are a team in this journey, and you must be open to change for any transformation to occur.

A cancer coach’s focus is on your cancer journey, and their goal is to assist you, their client, in coming up with clear, actionable steps that will help you manage your cancer diagnosis. Together through the coach-patient bond, you will implement a structured plan to encourage a healthy lifestyle for a safe and early recovery.


As a Certified Professional Cancer Coach, How can I help you?

Every person’s cancer journey is unique. I can help you take back control of your cancer diagnosis by partnering with you to provide you with the knowledge and integrative strategies that can help you during your cancer journey. 

We will work as a team to manage your side effects, risk of recurrence, and recovery process. I will use my expertise in integrative medicine to provide you with a whole-person approach to treatment and wellness.

Click this link to book a 30 minute no-obligation consultation call to see if we are the right fit to work together!

I’ve taken all my research on diet, environment, lifestyle, and mind-body and put it into a very comprehensive program that will help you create your own cancer recovery plan. If you want to take your recovery from cancer to the next level, click on the image below.

Also, if you have breast cancer and want to join a free community of people with cancer looking for holistic and integrative strategies to manage side effects and risk of recurrence, as well as encourage cancer recovery, CLICK THIS LINK to join the Breast Cancer Nutrition and Lifestyle Group for Prevention and Recovery to help support your journey and connect you with like-minded people. 

2) accessed Feb 7, 2021
3) J Cancer Surviv. 2020 Feb;14(1):48-52. doi: 10.1007/s11764-019-00818-1. Epub 2019 Nov 85
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