Health-care consulting for families facing a cancer diagnosis

Cancer Champions offers compassionate guidance and clarity to you and your loved ones throughout your cancer journey.

As your trusted guide, we empower you and your family with knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about your cancer care and regain your peace of mind.
Schedule a 15 minute get-acquainted call (free)Schedule a 90-minute consultation

With Cancer Champions,
You Don’t Have to Face Cancer Alone

If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed and anxious by a cancer diagnosis, compassionate support is available. Cancer Champions can ease your fear and uncertainty by helping you and your loved ones understand your specific disease, collect personalized healthcare information, evaluate your treatment options, and make informed decisions. 

Combining oncology knowledge with genuine compassion makes Cancer Champions a trusted advisor that complements your cancer care team and provides peace of mind throughout your cancer journey. Call Dana to learn more about how she can help to create a personalized roadmap to guide you and your family.

CONSULTATION

When you are presented with a difficult diagnosis, most likely you don’t know what you don’t know yet. Because I have professional healthcare experience and have personally been through several cancer journeys, I compassionately work with you to create a personalized roadmap to help you and your family navigate the journey. I also provide resources and informationto to help you take the first steps.

EDUCATION

When you are making critical decisions — you need access to the most relevant information, tailored to your unique situation. With both professional and personal experience researching treatment options and supportive care solutions for individuals facing cancer, I am uniquely qualified to offer families the types of information and resources they will need to make better informed decisions about their care.

FACILITATION

Upon hearing a cancer diagnosis, emotions often take control and inhibit decision making. Anxiety and fear may stifle important conversations that family members and loved ones need to have with the individual fighting cancer. I can help to facilitate these important but difficult conversations, with compassion and a kind and open heart.

From our inbox:

When my father was diagnosed with cancer I was in shock — and living 600 miles away. I knew he had been dealing with prostate cancer several years earlier, but I had no idea his cancer had returned and was so advanced.  

Dana was a true blessing. She went to see my father and assessed the situation quickly. Her knowledge of cancer was critical. She listened to the doctors and asked the right questions. She was far better equipped than us to discern what the doctors were saying — and counsel us appropriately. She monitored my father during his stay in the hospital and helped us navigate the transition to hospice. Dana was compassionate and a true professional all the way through to the end.

The nicest thing about working with Dana is her compassion. She has experienced the loss of her own parent to cancer and knows the confusion, uncertainty, and heartbreak involved. She is able to professionally communicate with the medical staff and gather the correct information — and translate it to us in an understandable way. Dana cried with us, prayed with us and was not afraid to be honest. I respected that.

— L.P., Atlanta, Ga

From our inbox:

As someone diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer just 5 months ago, I was overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t sure whether my doctors were doing what I needed. I asked Dana to review my case and it was the best thing I’ve done since diagnosis. I’m so grateful I made the decision to work with Dana. For a very reasonable fee, she actually did more than expected. She is smart, organized, prompt, and compassionate. I am now much more confident regarding treatment options and what my doctors should be doing. My head has stopped spinning and I can sleep at night. Worth every penny.

— Lori R

From our inbox:

“It’s difficult to express in words the importance of an advocate when faced with a life-changing scenario like cancer. Dana was amazing, providing incredible counsel and guidance that was critical in the early days of our diagnosis. I could not imagine going through this again without the caring, loving expertise that Dana Hutson brought to our family. She is an angel.”

-Eric

From our inbox:

“5 stars is just not enough for Dana Hutson. Dana has been a godsend to our family.  We lost my elderly father with Dementia after a cascade of events resulting from an ER visit.   My family has been struggling to bring closure to this situation.

I met Dana after a presentation she gave . During the presentation she gave an example that exactly described the experience we had at the hospital with my father. We hired Dana to go back and research the entire 30 day hospital experience and assist us in understanding what happened. Dana spent numerous hours reviewing hundreds of pages of notes from 4 different hospitals.

Our experience is far too common across the country. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet Dana until after my father’s death. If we had had Dana’s guidance, our family’s  outcome may have been radically different. I highly recommend seeking Dana’s assistance in advocating and supporting you during any type of medical situation. We will forever be grateful to Dana for bringing closure to our family.”

-Maureen

From our inbox:

“Money can’t pay you back for the wisdom you provided my family.”

From our inbox:

“You have been an angel that came into our lives…we could not be on this journey without you…”

From our inbox:

” working with Dana has been an absolute blessing for my family. She was able to quickly assess my mom’s situation and immediately offer solutions that made a difference. Her knowledge and tireless legwork is a gamechanger for families trying to negotiate the healthcare system.”

-Sam

7 Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

It’s helpful to have a list of questions to ask your doctor when you are presented with a cancer diagnosis. Here are 7 questions to ask at your next doctor’s appointment.

Recent articles

How to Hire an Independent Patient Advocate or Health Consultant

How to Hire an Independent Patient Advocate or Health Consultant

You may have heard the term patient advocate. You may even know someone who has benefitted from the services of a patient advocate However, you may be unclear as to how to find and hire one.

How do I  find an advocate?

First, know the difference between an independent patient advocate and an institutional advocate.

Most hospital systems and cancer centers provide advocates, patient navigators, or case managers for their patients.  The job descriptions may vary slightly, however, their main objective is to ensure patients are able to navigate within their institutions.   Their ultimate allegiance is to the institution they work for.

It is common for these individuals to manage several patients at once which minimizes the level of personal attention they are able to provide.

In contrast, an independent advocate/ health consultant works for the client they serve, which means their allegiance is to you.  Their objective is to help you meet your goals and to ensure you get the personal attention required for your specific situation.

What qualifications should you look for when hiring an independent advocate/ health consultant?

There are many facets to healthcare.  The actual treatments, medical billing and insurance, hospitalizations, and finding the necessary expertise for complicated diagnoses are just a few.

What you should look for depends on the situation you are facing, so you must first consider the question: ‘What do I need help with?’ 

  • Do you need help finding a second opinion for a new diagnosis?
  • Do you need help understanding your treatment options?
  • Do you need help with medical billing or insurance?
  • Do you feel alone and need a partner in decision-making?
  • Are you supporting loved ones and it has become overwhelming?

Once you have identified what you are looking for it is time to search for the professional who will best meet your needs.  Remember the advocate with the most expertise may not be located near you. However, many specialized advocates routinely provide their services remotely.

There are several public  directories available that allow you to search by location, keyword, or the service you are looking for.

Questions to help you choose an independent patient advocate/ health consultant?

Once you have located several potential independent advocates who provide the services you are looking for, the next step is to interview them to see if there is a fit. An advocate should provide a complimentary call for you to get to know them and to ask questions.  These calls may range from 15 to 20 minutes and are not meant to provide you with specific advocacy solutions.

  • What are your advocacy or care management credentials?
  • Have you had other cases similar to mine?
  • What is your background, training, and experience in providing these services?
  • Are you certified for this work?
  • What do you charge for your services?
  • Does anyone else pay you to help me?
  • Do you have errors and omissions insurance?
  • Do you know the approximate amount of time it will take you to help me?
  • What is your current caseload?
  • Do you have references?

If you would like to learn more about how I can specifically help you or a loved one, please contact us for a complimentary get-acquainted call at  Cancer Champions.

 

How To Find A Patient Advocate

How To Find A Patient Advocate

You may have heard the term patient advocate… You may even know someone who has benefitted from the services of an independent patient advocate. However, you—like most people—are probably still unclear as to what they actually do and how to find one.

People frequently reach out to me asking for clarification about the services I provide.  In order to further define the value of this growing profession, I’ll offer the following explanation of my role as an independent patient advocate in the hopes that it brings clarity to anyone considering obtaining additional support for themselves or a loved one.

Although I hold a board certification for private patient advocacy, I have found that a more accurate explanation of the services that I provide is in alignment with those of a professional health consultant. What do I mean by that? Well, allow me to explain.

The most common definition of an  “advocate” is a person ( such as a lawyer), who works and argues in support of another’s cause, particularly in court.

This (^) definition is the one most people think of when they hear the word advocate. However, it routinely conjures up connotations of an adversarial relationship or situation.

As a private patient advocate, I am not typically arguing on behalf of another. Quite the contrary actually. 

As an expert in the subject matter of cancer, I—like an advocate—provide professional counsel.   My goal is for you to gain the clarity you need to make decisions about your care with confidence and to achieve your desired outcomes.  I work with you and your healthcare team to facilitate your goals.  Our relationship is more like a collaboration than an adversarial situation.

What do I mean by this? Well, most of us have the intellect to sell our own house, manage our investments, or even engage with the legal system without the assistance of counsel. However, what we lack is the specific depth of experience, training, insights, and knowledge of the subject matter we are navigating. Because we have a desire to maximize our outcomes, we generally hire “consultants” in these areas.

The complexity of our healthcare system, coupled with a difficult diagnosis, should elicit the same desire to seek a subject matter expert to guide and support us in our healthcare decision-making.

So with that said…

How does independent health consultants/advocates help you maximize outcomes?

  • I bring 25 years of experience working with cancer centers, researchers, and biotech professionals, which means you gain unique insights
  • My extensive network of physicians, researchers, and contacts within centers of excellence provides you with access to a deep well of expertise
  • I bring the subject matter expertise within oncology, (the study and treatment  of cancer)   necessary to ensure your support “team”  maximizes their skillset  and valuable time is not wasted on a steep learning curve

When to hire an independent health consultant/ advocate?

  • When you lack a deep knowledge, insight, or understanding of your diagnosis
  • When you are unsure of how to go about engaging  the expertise needed to treat it
  • The beginning of your journey is the most critical time, as you assemble the “right”  healthcare team and plan for your situation
  • When your desire is to maximize your outcome

How to find an independent patient advocate/health consultant?

You can find an independent patient advocate/ healthcare consultant using the directory link below or if you’d like to learn more about how I can specifically help you with a cancer diagnosis please contact me at cancer champions for a complimentary get-acquainted call.

Directory  

The Truth About Hospice

The Truth About Hospice

I don’t want to “give up” or “let my family down”

I hear this quite often from clients who after months of treatment start to wonder if they really want to continue down the same path.

Treatments require the stamina of both the physical body as well as emotional fortitude.

It can be exhausting and when the results hoped for don’t materialize or the times spent in remission become shorter and shorter and treatments become harder and harder, even the toughest “warrior” begins to question how much fight they have left. My mom was in this camp.

That’s why I rarely use the “battle cry” vernacular that is frequently heard when describing a person’s entry into cancer treatment.  Another “drafted” soldier in the “war on cancer.” Drafted, because no one joins this army voluntarily.

As much progress as has been made in new therapies, surgical techniques, diagnostic testing, and genomic profiling there are still people who do not experience  “victory.”

Are these people quitters?  Did they just not “fight” hard or well enough?

Of course not!  But they often feel that way and that mantle is hard to put down, precluding many from the benefit of hospice intervention.

The purpose of this post is to offer a different perspective of hospice to highlight why I feel some of the “bravest warriors” choose to lay down their arms and finish strong.

Before we go further, let’s be clear about what hospice is and what palliative care is. They are not the same.

What is Palliative Care? And Who is Eligible?

Cancer is a serious illness that touches all areas of a person’s life as well as the lives of his/her loved ones. People with serious illnesses, like cancer, are eligible for palliative care.

Palliative care treats the emotional, social, practical, and spiritual issues brought on by a cancer diagnosis.  It can be administered with or without curative intent.

Some of the physical effects of cancer on the individual include:

  •   Pain
  •   Loss of appetite, nausea
  •   Shortness of breath
  •   Fatigue
  •   Depression
  •   Neuropathy

Some of the ways family and loved ones are affected include:

  •   Role reversals
  •   Shifting needs of family members
  •   Upset of balance of everyday responsibilities
  •   Financial burdens

Palliative care addresses all of these areas to ensure the person going through treatment remains as healthy and strong as possible.

Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care became a defined specialty in 2006. Although a relatively new specialty, most large hospitals have palliative care teams. The palliative care team is made up of physicians, nurses, dieticians, social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, and chaplains.

Palliative care may be offered by hospitals, home health agencies, cancer centers, and long-term care facilities, and yes Hospice agencies.

 What is Hospice Care? And Who is Eligible?

There is some overlap between hospice care and palliative care.  The difference is palliative care services may be provided with or without curative intent.

 Hospice care is provided without curative intent and often includes palliative care services. 

Examples of situations with non-curative intent would be that there are no longer curative treatment options available or the person undergoing treatment has made the decision to discontinue treatment due to the side effects outweighing the anticipated benefit of the treatment.

What Hospice Is Not

Choosing hospice is not giving up

This is just my opinion, but I feel it takes courage to really think about what your wishes are for the last season of life and then to communicate them with the people most important to you so that when the time comes for hard decisions to be made, you are not “giving up” but actually taking control and executing what you want to happen next.

Many of us hold the theory that if we talk about “death” we will only hasten it.  There is no data to support this, however, it is a real fear for many.

I only have anecdotal evidence that the families I work with who have had these hard conversations prior to facing a devastating medical situation and feel much more in control of their situation.

Choosing hospice does not mean you have to leave home.

It is often thought that “going” to hospice means physically going to a  place.  In some instances, there are hospice units within hospitals or freestanding hospice facilities that provide hospice care if care can not be provided in the home.  However, most hospice patients choose to receive care in their homes.

Choosing hospice is not the last resort.

Hospice services can begin when your prognosis is 6 months or less if the disease follows its expected course.

There are times when a person outlives their expected prognosis or a person would like to try a clinical trial that has come available.  You can leave hospice to pursue treatment.

 Hospice care is not provided by volunteers.

Hospice care professionals are doctors and nurses trained specifically to manage every stage of the end of life. They are also able to help the family recognize what stage of the end-of-life process your loved one is in and how to adjust their care accordingly.

 Choosing hospice does not mean your loved one will be sedated with morphine.

Unfortunately, pain is often a part of the dying process. Pain management is just one facet of what hospice professionals provide and doses of pain medications start low and are increased as needed.

The hospice team is made up of a variety of professionals specializing in the physical, emotional, and spiritual care of the patient and their families.  Providing services very much like palliative care services.

Choosing Hospice is not expensive.

Hospice care is covered under the Medicare hospice benefit, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans. Patients are not denied hospice care regardless of their ability to pay.

 Choosing hospice is not hard to enroll in.

For most hospice programs it only takes a phone call to arrange care and services.

These are just a few of the most common myths that I hear in my consultancy.

It is important to note that the quality of the services provided may vary from program to program.

If you would like to learn more about how hospice may be able to help you or a loved one, or if you wish to speak with someone regarding hospice myths and misconceptions or generally about hospice care, please contact us.

Schedule a get-acquainted call 

The first step is a free 15-minute get-acquainted call to see how I can help. The next step is to schedule our first 90 minute consultation  , where I will personalize a roadmap for you and your family, and determine next steps.