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 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.

Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Cancer  (CAM)

Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Cancer (CAM)

Social media and the Internet have increased our opportunity to amass information and form opinions around individual treatment decisions. As a result, there is an increased prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer care in the U.S.

Most of the information gained on complementary medicine comes from family, friends, or the internet, making it extremely difficult to discern reputable sources from ones to be wary of.

Some of the most common reasons patients seek to utilize a complementary or alternative medicine are:

  • Helping to cope with the side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain, and fatigue
  • Comforting themselves and easing the worries of cancer treatment and related stress
  • Feeling that they are doing something to help with their care
  • Trying to treat or cure their cancer

 

For this blog, we will define the differences between complementary and alternative medicine and discuss the integration of the two into traditional cancer treatment.

Know the Difference Between Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Standard or traditional cancer regimens have been clinically researched and proven to be safe and effective for one or more types of cancer.

Examples of standard treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormonal therapy.

There are also medicines to help with many of the side effects of cancer treatments, such as anti-nausea medications, and growth factors that have been clinically proven to be effective and safe.

Complementary treatments refer to supportive therapies that are used alongside traditional or standard treatment regimens.

The use of complementary treatments may improve wellbeing and quality of life as a person undergoes traditional treatment.

Some examples of mind-body complementary therapies are meditation, physical activity, acupuncture, yoga, guided imagery, reflexology, and massage. There are also biologically based practices such as dietary supplements and botanicals.

What is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine differs from complementary medicine in that alternative medicine is used instead of standard medical treatment.

Alternative medicines have minimal to no scientific research to prove their ability to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. One example would be to use a special diet to treat cancer instead of traditional therapy.

It is important to note that if the claims made about an alternative treatment seem too good to be true, unfortunately, they probably are.

As I have said before, cancer is not one disease but over 200 diseases and is very specific to each individual. There are unique characteristics, exposures, grades, stages, and genomic profiles to consider in each person’s situation. What may have been effective for one person does not mean it will have the same results for someone else…even if the cancer type is the same.

It would be prudent to seek wise counsel to gain a thorough understanding of the pros and cons before deciding to enroll in an alternative medicine protocol.

How Do I Know if Complementary and Alternative Medicine Is For Me?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a branch of the National Institute of Health,  is responsible for conducting and supporting research and providing information about complementary health products and practices.

Examples of information gleaned from their website:

  • Topics from A to Z
  • Tips on Complementary Health
  • Science and Safety information

 

Many oncology providers have become more aware of promising integrative therapies and many of the larger cancer centers offer integrative oncology services.

It is important to note that although many integrative therapies can be helpful, others have been proven to have negative interactions with some standard cancer treatments or other medications.

The best way to incorporate these therapies into your cancer care is to talk to your healthcare team about how to safely integrate complementary therapies with your current treatment plan.

Integrating Complementary Medicine Into Your Treatment Plan.

Integrative oncology is the use of complementary therapies along with conventional medicine to treat a cancer patient’s mind, body, and spirit.

Integrative therapies can help with the goals of treatment, treatment of side effects, and distress relief, and may help with adherence and treatment results.

Some therapies that are thought of as integrative modalities:

  • Mind-body methods – mindfulness, biofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mediation, relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, yoga, music therapy, creative/expressive therapies, and spirituality.
  • Biologically based practices – vitamins, herbs.
  • Body-based practices – massage, chiropractic interventions, reflexology.
  • Energy medicine – Reiki, Tai chi, therapeutic touch.
  • Other medical delivery systems – Chinese medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and naturopathy.

 

Your healthcare team can help guide you towards trusted resources to learn more about complementary therapies and refer you to integrative practitioners at your cancer center or in your area. An oncology social worker or patient advocate can assist with coordinating care and facilitating communication amongst providers.

It is important to note that not all medical insurance plans cover integrative treatments, be sure to check your specific plan’s coverage and provider network.

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.