Coaching is the missing link in cancer care. We all need an advocate when faced with a cancer diagnosis. How great is it when your advocate is a coach? And how about if that coach happens to be your wife? The following is a quest post by author and coach, Aileen Gibb. Faced with a grim diagnosis, and armed with skills, her husband questioned and defied doctor’s orders–and refused to die on schedule.
Yes, we need our medical experts—but there are many paths for cancer. Yours just might not be the one your doctor recommends. Enlist an advocate, hire a coach, empower yourself to beat cancer.
Is it time for you to write your own story?
When my larger than life husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer, I knew that the skills I had garnered in my twenty year career as a professional coach were going to come into their own. Nobody expects such a diagnosis or to be told that it would involve major, life changing surgery. Two years on, with my husband fit, fat and healthy again, I believe it was asking the right questions, listening and not always believing the “experts” that carried us through.
I am of a generation brought up to believe that doctors, dentists, consultants, church ministers, teachers – in fact any professional – had the right answers. My parents would never question authority and would always do as the doctor ordered. I was seen as somewhat of a rebel if I challenged authority. This first stood me in good stead at the age of 13 when I refused to believe my career advisor. I had a vision that I wanted to go to university to do business studies combined with languages. My career advisor told me no university in Scotland ran such a course. I did not accept his expertise and quickly discovered that the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow would allow me to take courses from different curricula to achieve my goal.
This questioning nature followed me into my own business career spanning HR, Sales, General Management, and Business Consulting. In each role, I found myself questioning “bosses” were telling us what to do. Surely there was another way. A more human way, where each individual could be seen and fully heard as a real person. I found that new way in my late thirties when I had the privilege of working with a group of women entrepreneurs. I discovered that asking the right questions, equipped these women to listen to themselves, to hear their own strengths, ambitions and desires and to turn their dreams into reality. This was my first experience of pure coaching, which focuses on the individual and which unlocks self-awareness, self-belief and the strength and confidence to achieve things previously seen as difficult, challenging or impossible.
There is a proliferation of coaching in the world now. In business and life, many people are working with a coach to move beyond their current horizon, achieve goals and realise dreams they thought otherwise impossible. I’m intrigued by the process by which this happens. I often describe it as having another pair of eyes to see things with, another pair of ears to listen to and really hear your own questions and possibilities; as a way of amplifying your voice to ask for what you really need. It’s like having an extra engine to power your next move and take action.
A colleague asked me why everyone wants to be, or to have, a coach. It’s not really that we all want or need a coach – rather it’s that we want and need the deep, human conversation that emerges from that coaching space. The connection that enables us to listen to the real questions in our heart, to find the courage to give voice to what we need and to challenge all the limitations we think are holding us back or keeping us stuck in the same old patterns and habits of behaviour.
Nowhere is this more important than when faced with the prescribed answers of any “expert”. Faced with life-shattering news such as a cancer diagnosis, we face momentous choices. We are overwhelmed. We are vulnerable to jumping in and doing whatever the experts tell us to do. We want things to be fixed quickly. We want everything to be right again. Now, more than ever, it is important to slow down, ask questions and listen to our own guidance.
My husband had watched me work as a coach for many years. Sometimes he was quite dismissive of my “woo-woo” ideas. Now I watched as he listened to the experts, asked questions, and took the time to think through very carefully what he felt was right for him. I was proud of him standing up for what he needed. Of the ownership he took of his own treatments. Of the tolerance he had for all the discomfort and indignities of the journey. And of the confidence he showed in trying out new things from the field of complementary therapies to support him.
Most of all I’m proud of how he questioned one of his oncologists. Every time we would visit, this oncologist said “you better get your affairs in order”. He was doom and gloom, quoting the downside statistics of other people’s cases. If anything, his extreme negativity, made my husband the more determined to question him. While one part of us heard what he said, another part of us would come out of the clinic asking “why should we take that as the truth?” and we’d ask ourselves what can we do next to make things better. We owned it. We didn’t hand it over to the expert. This came to be our creed: what we chose to accept or not, to question or not, to hear or not, was up to us. My husband would write his own story. His current version is that he will live till he is 87 and hopefully go back and knock on that oncologist’s door and say told you so!
We need the skills and knowledge of the experts. However, theirs is only one version of the story. We all have the opportunity – and the right – to ask questions and listen for our own answers. To write our own story. And we have to be bold and trusting enough to do so. At times when we are most vulnerable, hearing our own voice and responding to its call is a vital part of being human. It’s in all of us.
As a final note, this call lies in the heart of those experts too. My husband’s surgeon was an amazing person. One of the best listeners I’ve met. His humanity, his authenticity, his listening and his empathy provided us with the strength to hear our choices and to make our own decisions. AND here’s the twist: my husband initially agreed to proceed with the surgery. He was actually on the table when, his surgeon, programmed as he was to “cut it out” stopped himself. He heard something. His own inner voice told him to pause: that maybe this surgery was not in the best interests of this patient. He resisted all his own expertise. Everything that told him this was how to fix things. He stopped and listened and asked some more questions. He sewed my husband up again and called me. Aileen, he said, I don’t know why but for some reason I heard a big question in my head asking whether this was the right thing to do. I believe your husband will have a better quality life if I don’t operate. I’m handing him over to the chemo and radiation guys for treatment instead.
That was over two years ago. I like to think that something in our relationship with that surgeon – in the way we listened to each other and explored questions together – influenced the outcome.
The only question I have now is what other adventures are calling me with a husband who’s going to live till 87 years old?
Aileen Gibb is an inspirational coach, facilitator and leader whose work has taken her around the globe. She has worked with leaders and teams in Kazakhstan, Venezuela, the Middle East, France, Angola and in many companies in the UK and North America, to uncover new possibilities and transform results. Where she has travelled she has been amazed at the power of coaching-style conversations and the choices people make to become more successful in their work and to live more fulfilling lives. Aileen is from the small village of Fyvie, in North East Scotland and has lived for the past twelve years amidst the rocky mountain in Canmore, Alberta, Canada with her husband, Jake and their two boxer dogs. Aileen thanks you for your interest in VOICES, please let her know how it inspires you. http://www.aileengibbvoices.com https://www.facebook.com/aileengibbVOICES
VOICES is a series of connected coaching stories which reflect many of the real-life choices people might consider making to live the life they truly wish for. All the stories are fiction and her hope is that one of the stories – or one of the questions in one of the stories – might resonate with your life story and invite you to make a choice. The coaching stories are interwoven with the musings of a future-guide who travels to and from a parallel time, considering what the key messages are for inspiring a better future society.
VOICES is available for purchase now and although Aileen has some upfront costs to recoup, as soon as it starts to generate profit, funds from the book sales will be going to support people going through cancer to access complementary therapies such as acupuncture, which are proven to mitigate the extreme fatigue and other side-effects of cancer treatments.
Where to Purchase:
- First Prize: Autographed copy of VOICES and 2 hours of coaching with Aileen Gibb
- Second Prize: Autographed copy of VOICES
- Third Prize: Autographed copy of VOICES
~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer strategist, radio talk show host, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She mentors women who are coping with issues of well-being associated with breast cancer and its aftermath; she is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health and more and has contributed to Breast Cancer Answers as well as written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, and she writes the Options for Life column for the Natural Healing-Natural Wellness Newsletter. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys.
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