Shock. Disbelief. Fear. Despair. These are the words I hear most often when someone tells me what they experienced when diagnosed with cancer.

Here in Canada, cancer is the leading cause of death. It's estimated that more than 200,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2018 and one in two will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime. While the reality of cancer is changing — advances in cancer treatment mean you are now twice as likely to survive at least 10 years after a cancer diagnosis than you were 40 years ago — the consequences are changing, too.

The long-term, comprehensive care desperately needed by those living with cancer is not available.

More Canadians than ever before are living with the long-term consequences of cancer and its treatment. Ongoing physical impairments like chronic fatigue and pain are common, as are mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Six months following a cancer diagnosis, more than one in five survivors suffer from post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). For many, cancer never completely goes away.

Unfortunately, the long-term, comprehensive care desperately needed by those living with cancer is not available. Even though it is now considered a chronic disease, our health care services do not offer the support that exists for other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. For many, leaving the specialized care of their oncologist feels like jumping off a cliff.

In 2011, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation introduced Cancer Coaching in Ottawa. It's a professional, community-based service that addresses current emotional, physical, navigational, and informational gaps in cancer care. The coaching is focused on what matters most to each person and has proven to help patients become active participants in their care. With the assistance of our coaches, 97% of our clients — including patients, their families, and their caregivers — report being better able to cope and to care for themselves. They are able to achieve their health and wellness goals and improve their quality of life.

With the assistance of our coaches, 97% of our clients — including patients, their families, and their caregivers — report being better able to cope and to care for themselves.

Cancer Coaching is a game changer. It can improve the long-term health of Canadians and contribute to the sustainability of our health care system. I am very proud of the work we have done, but because the results are so compelling, we must do more. I want to help other organizations and health professionals provide this kind of care. Imagine the impact if we could replicate this model of care across Canada.


Linda Eagen is the Founder of Cancer Coaching and the President and CEO of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. 

If you want to help or find out more, please visit the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Together, we can make it happen.