About Us – Cancer Diagnosis – Health Equals Freedom
About Us – cancer diagnosis – we can help you
A new cancer diagnosis is confronting; we know we have experience with this and can help you.
Health Equals Freedom – Making Sense of Cancer was founded to provide advocacy and support to you or a family member with a new cancer diagnosis.
We know how scary this time is as we have been there too!
You may have noticed that there seems to be more people with cancer around friends, colleagues and family? Perhaps the diagnosis of CANCER has been given to you?
What is a Healthcare Navigator?
After a cancer diagnosis, we can be there every step of the way on your health recovery journey no matter where you are located in Australia using our Telehealth services!
A Healthcare Navigator is medically savvy, works for you and will stand by you!
If you engage an independent professional healthcare navigator, they attend medical meetings with you and your healthcare team, either face-to-face, by phone or video link.
Your navigator’s job is to listen to the information provided by the doctor or whoever and explain to you and your family anything that needs clarification and advocate on your behalf if needed.
Asking questions of your doctors on your behalf, recapping and summarising for you to look at later – can be so valuable. It is easier to digest information when you are relaxed and at home.
This support is important, especially at diagnosis, as you may be meeting multiple healthcare professionals. Your health professionals may not always communicate in a way you understand, or to each other well.
Not only is it confusing, it is very complex and hard for you as a patient to keep on top of it all, as you have enough to deal with – your emotions for one! A bit of navigation and project management can really help.
Your cancer healthcare team
You may be seeing your GP, surgeon, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist, nurse to name a few. Complex results will be coming in from pathologists, radiologists and genetic oncologists, and the nurses are also trying their best to help you!
This is a large number of health professionals trying to assist with your cancer. But seeing so many experts at this time can be intimidating, frightening, overwhelming and disjointed.
Discussion during coaching sessions outside of the visit to the healthcare professional, with your own patient advocate can really assist. This can help if difficult or complex decisions are needed regarding the treatment pathway. Many of the cross-roads in your cancer journey are hard and you need caring support.
We offer evidence-based resources to provide you with a reliable service to support you at this difficult time of cancer diagnosis. Consideration of all aspects of your life and health are taken together – Wholistically.
If Health Equals Freedom – Making Sense of Cancer’s team cannot provide assistance to you and your family, we will refer to organisations or services that can. Many helpful resources are found on our resources page, you can refer to them whenever you like.
On our website we have attempted to make complicated topics easier, this way you can refer to these often and use the explanations, checklists, tips and other resources quickly as there is no time to waste!
1) We help you navigate difficult decision-making with a cancer diagnosis
Sometimes you may not have family members or trusted friends that can help you navigate the complex healthcare system.
Often your family and friends can make the situation worse, either through strong opinions or misinformation.
At Health Equals Freedom – Making Sense of Cancer we provide you with customised decision point support coaching. Coaches are by definition support – they don’t do, that is all up to you! Allowing you to feel confident in your own decision-making regarding your cancer is very important.
An independent health advocate can support you and your family during decision making.
Some of the ways this is done can include:
- seeking other opinions or presenting options,
- helping you navigate the cancer treatment network,
- research new approaches for you to consider,
- investigate access to clinical trials, and
- facilitate compassionate access to drugs if needed.
Our team has extensive experience in health advocacy from a family-lived perspective have extensive training in cancer-related treatments and the newest approaches to therapy.
At Health Equals Freedom – Making Sense of Cancer – we also provide family group coaching. This can help your family members if they are not coping with your diagnosis or how you are going.
2) We help you to get the best of your healthcare professionals service
Don’t get us wrong, what your team of doctors tell you, whatever your stage or type of cancer is very important! We work with your doctors for you to get the best result possible in these difficult circumstances.
Know you have the opportunity to make changes and decisions about your care that will improve your health. For example, surgeons are interested in surgery, and medical oncologists are interested in chemotherapy. The order treatment is given may be important. At any juncture you can ask questions to clarify as you need to feel confident.
Many people are not aware that they can question their health professionals about options and have the right to do so at any point.
Quite a few of the treatments your healthcare professionals have in store for you are literally designed to knock you off your feet and knock cancer out of you. It is the ‘fight’ or competition of your life, you want ‘to win’ and turn your health around, which you CAN!
Winning over and becoming a cancer thriver is possible with hard work, good luck and the right environment, you can do it!
3) We help by empowering you to be as healthy as possible
While doctors will aim to help you, especially if you have had a CANCER diagnosis – YOU actually have the POWER to take charge of what you do (even the medications you take), eat, and think with the knowledge that your body CAN heal and repair itself if given the opportunity.
Asking questions and challenging your treatments is empowering and important. Most people like you don’t know that they can have this personal power over their cancer treatments and approach. The ability to make your own decisions is very important in your cancer recovery.
Sometimes the treatments that doctors use in oncology are experimental and have only been used on a few patients, you may or may not want to take the chance, that is up to you, but you need to understand this in advance.
Time is of the essence, however, sometimes the treatments can make your quality of life worse because of their toxicities and side-effects. It is KEY to ask questions and become comfortable that you are making choices, even if you are feeling very sick. Ideally at the beginning of your treatment, so you know what you are in for and what the consequences of these decisions are. Sometimes taking the time to consider the best steps is a good investment that could save you time, money and lead to better health outcomes for you.
Steps that you can take
Putting the right things on, in and around your body can reap amazing changes even if your health history is really bad, with a few small tweaks in a better environment your body will work better. This is the exciting thing; making changes can add up to improvements in the way your body is working and healing.
Certainly, things you choose to do, e.g. the food you eat or the quality and quantity of your sleep, or reducing stress, may have bigger impacts than others. You CAN simply choose what works best for you and supports the commitments to your short-term and long-term health recovery.
There is some good news amongst this doom and gloom. Today, almost 7 in 10 Australians will survive for at least 5 years after a cancer diagnosis and in some cancers the survival is as high as 90% and it is steadily increasing with improvements in care and treatments . Or in other words 9 people out of 10 live on, which is good news in the cancer diagnosis landscape. This could be the case for you too!
The most common cancers in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, breast, colorectal (bowel), melanoma and lung cancer (Cancer in Australia, AIHW 2019).
When you have a diagnosis, you may want to do as much as possible as quickly as possible, or you might need to take baby-steps. Everyone is different and your cancer journey is your own, not your doctor’s, family’s or anyone else’s, but your own. Whatever you choose is correct in your cancer journey and should be supported!
At Health Equals Freedom – Making Sense of Cancer – we are here to guide you with health advocacy with practical evidence-based resources to support you no matter what changes you decide to make on your journey!
- 15-minute first consultation (Free),
- Healthcare Navigation – with healthcare professionals – attend sessions by telephone or secure Telehealth Video Call,
- 1-hour Cancer Recovery Coaching Session,
- Make-A-Change – Starter Pack (4 sessions),
- Accelerate-Your-Health-Recovery (10 sessions),
- Family-Conference-Consult (1-hour secure Telehealth Video Meeting), and
- Motivational speaking engagements.
About Dr Rachel
My colleagues, friends and family have described me as:
- Empathetic, and
I was always interested in learning, even as a little girl and was very curious. I wanted to understand how things worked, particularly biology and was a ‘book-worm’. Many times, I was told I am good at explaining complex things and making them easy to understand.
Two degrees later: Bachelor of Science in Pathology with First Class Honours and Doctorate in Medicine. My study focussed on pathology, which is the study of what causes dis-ease and ill-health, this formal study took more than 9 years at University here in Australia and in the USA. Since then working in treatment areas for complex diseases has been a passion of mine.
In addition, I have also setup a hospital wing for patients in mental health recovery, worked with people with disabilities in NDIS, and other health related roles. I like helping others. My skills are very diverse, I am unique.
Pathology or ‘dis-ease’
Understanding how to get your health back requires an understanding of ill-health. Ill-health also called “Dis (Latin for Lack of) Ease”, or pathology, is the direct opposite of health. The serious consequences of dis–ease include CANCER, infertility, infectious diseases, obesity, diabetes etc, which you have unfortunately come to find out.
Dr Rachel’s own health
I also understand what it is like to get a pre-cancer diagnosis myself, the doctors found polyps in my bowel. Once they were found I began the journey to improve my own health. Changing my behaviour for my own health recovery journey, including reducing processed foods meats, alcohol and salt while increasing veggies and I feel much better for it.
In fact, my doctor said when the bowel polyps were found”
If you don’t change your lifestyle, you will get bowel cancer!
I have completely changed what I eat, increased my exercise, regularly use stress reducing techniques, such as meditation, all to protect my health, as I have a strong family history of cancer.
In 2017 I shaved my hair to raise funds for the World’s Greatest Shave by the Leukaemia Foundation. I know it somewhat unrealistic, as I still have my eyebrows and eyelashes, unlike chemo patients, but I did raise some important funds for research.
Cancers impact on Dr Rachel’s Family & Friends
Making sure your loved ones are getting the right treatment is so important.
Both of my grandfathers died of cancer, stomach and prostate, like many people. My young cousin died from glioblastoma at 38 after a long 9-year battle with it. Unfortunately, he died and less than 2 months later my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer, he is thankfully still alive more than 5 years later, due to early detection with BowelScreen. Recently my Mum got diagnosed with breast cancer by BreastScreen. My experience with my family in cancer treatments has been very long and detailed.
I have other family members who are currently battling different types of cancers.
Many of my colleagues and friends have been diagnosed with blood, liver, brain, breast, skin, uterine, stomach, tongue and cervical cancer to list the main culprits. It seems everywhere you go you meet people touched by cancer, there are many types and forms.
Here is a photo I took while visiting a friend undergoing chemo for a brain tumour, we were at Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne, in the Super8 Healthy Food Cafe.
When my Dad was undergoing chemo, in a hospital in country NSW, in his usual joking way, he described the hospital as “packed” and the “place was pumping”!
This hospital was built in June 2016, the car park for 330 patients, was FULL when I visited. This hospital has 96 overnight inpatient beds, 110 chemo day beds and chairs and 42-bed capacity intensive care unit.
There seems to be something really wrong with this picture – too many people have cancer!
My Vision for more cancer thrivers – life after cancer can be good
My dream for a long time is to support people who have a cancer diagnosis and offer support and care to make their journey better. I would really like to see less CANCER and many more cancer thrivers who go on to doing all the things that fulfil them in their life.
You don’t have 10 years to spend at University then another decade to learn these things to improve your health, you need help now. That is why you are here, right? My difficult learning experiences may be of value to you now.
Sometimes time is of the essence.
In the past we thought our genetics can’t be changed – this is now not true due to epigenetics and nutrigenomics, cutting edge new science, which holds great promise for the future.
In the meantime, there are other things you can do to improve your health circumstances. We and our team and your cancer project healthcare team can show you how.
At the start of my own journey over 10 years ago, I was empowered to make changes. I chose which lay opinions to take on board or ignore, and what ‘expert advice’ from my doctors I could apply to my life.
As an empowered person I ask questions and don’t take all opinions at face value – that is what my science and medical training taught me to do. I prefer facts and am trained to look for them. That isn’t to say that I will not consider information and opinions that are given, if they ‘add up’ to me.
Just like me you are the best person to decide for yourself about your own health or ill-health. You know how you feel, you know what hurts and what things you will and won’t try.
The experience of what it is like to have the people I love most – my family and friends diagnosed with cancer has been a series of a hard lessons. This experience and knowledge allow me to help you now.
Using an empowering approach is best as no-one can change the past.
We are all here for a season, a reason or a lifetime, we never know what will happen or where we will end up. However, your journey is your own and it would be great if you could make it as good as possible.
I hope that I can help you take action and feel empowered towards regaining your health, I want to see you well!
Many of the team that helps me understand cancer from the perspective of patients work on our Patient Advisory Board. Have a look at their stories to know that there is a good life after a cancer diagnosis!
Time is of the essence; YOU can make informed decisions regarding elements to include in your health improvement program NOW!
Research has shown the longer people like you are proactive with your own cancer recovery journey, the better health outcomes you can expect to get. The goal is to go on to live a full, happy, long life.
We work for you in a tailored personalised way.
As a competitive ocean sailor I navigate in races to keep us safe and find the best path forward.
At Health Equals Freedom we aim to EMPOWER you to be in control of your own health. No-one else is better placed to look after YOUR health, but YOU!
I would love to make hope infectious!
Let’s make sense of cancer together.
Because after all your Health Equals Freedom!
Yours in good health,
I am an advocate for evidence-based integrative oncology, to empower you to get the best health result you can.Dr Rachel – CHO (Chief Health Officer) or (Chief Heart Officer) [Professional Independent Healthcare Navigator, Cancer Recovery Coach, Thought Leader, Trainer, Mentor, Author, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Cousin, Aunty, Great Aunty and Consultant] Dr Rachel can be booked to talk at your club or organisation as a motivational speaker.
This service is created in loving memory of: Shannon Wise (glioblastoma), Desmond Cameron (prostate cancer), Sonia Du Toit (breast cancer), Dr Colin Harbour (leukaemia).
Hagerty, R.G., Butow P.N, Ellis P.M., Dimitry S., Tattersall M.H.N. Communicating prognosis in cancer care: a systematic review of the literature. Annals of Oncology, Volume 16, Issue 7, July 2005, Pages 1005–1053.