The Value of the Lived Experience

Louise Lacroix, bénévole

By Marylin Smith Carsley

A cancer diagnosis is devastating; it throws an individual’s hopes and dreams for the future into question. The emotional component is trying, especially when patients are forced to absorb a host of medical information, treatment terminology, and make life-altering decisions. Having an experienced volunteer on standby provides patients with support and perspective.

Why Use the Support of a Volunteer?

The emotional component of cancer is overwhelming, so it helps to hear from others who have lived through similar experiences with disease and recovery. The ability to engage in meaningful dialogue with volunteers about treatment options, side effects, and the anxiety of the unknown is invaluable. Communication is a good outlet for patients, especially knowing their discussions are always kept strictly confidential.

Why is Peer Support Important for Cancer Patients?

In addition to feeling alone, cancer patients are often full of questions. In sharing their own experiences, volunteers can provide personalized support, and give tips on how to tolerate certain foods, what pillows are most comfortable post-surgery, and other helpful hacks to make treatment, and the unknown, more manageable.

Knowledge of the Health Care System

Our health care system is often challenging to navigate in the best of times. Peer to peer cancer support from volunteers can provide patients with pathways through the system, including how to access the best clinics, services, doctors, thereby lifting a major weight off the patient.

Listening Attentively

Finally, importantly, volunteers are able to listen objectively to the patients they support. They are trained to anticipate initial resistance, and know how to remain neutral and non-judgmental, making sure no one goes through a cancer fight alone, and, in turn facilitating a patient’s path to healing.

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