Cancer Coach

In the fight against cancer there are many technologies, procedures and medicines that a physician can bring to bear against the disease. But as Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports for about 300 cancer patients in recent years there has been another weapon in the arsenal.

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And it is a formidable weapon at that. It is "The Cancer Coach", Sharon Lee Parker, positive energy and enthusiasm incarnate.

"I always believe that in order to win you've got to be very positive and very proactive in whatever you want to achieve. So, cancer is no different than any other serious disease or really any other problem that looks like it's a mountain right in front of you."

Parker was diagnosed with two types of cancer and spent a year being treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She used her positive attitude to help beat the disease and then, and in the years since, she has made it her goal to help others stay positive and focused as they battle cancer.

So, what does a cancer coach do? Parker says there is no formula, no series of steps, no instructions...

"Because every patient is different. There are people who are 20 and there are people who are 80. Some people need to know where to go, how to cope, how to pay for it, what they can do to get better. Every patient is an individual and needs a certain amount of positive reinforcement to help them get through it."

Parker meets with patients in person and does a lot of "coaching" over the phone. Her cell phone can ring at any time. Even when she was being treated she worked hard to make the best of a bad situation.

"And that's, of course, what I try to inculcate into the brain of the patient, the family the caregiver, the one whose distressed about the cancer patient. Sometimes it isn't the cancer patient themselves, sometimes it's the husband or the brother or the sister. Sometimes they're afraid of getting it themselves; sometimes they don't know what to say, how to react, and those are all things that I work with them on."

Adele Segel and Sharon Parker went to High School together in New York City and reconnected here when Sharon was being treated at MD Anderson. Later, Segel was diagnosed with cancer and contacted her old friend

"Sharon gave me the support to be able to stay focused, so that while I was going through treatment I was not only able to work, I was able to do three of the largest jobs I had done in ages. And, she just gave me this positive energy that you're going to be okay."

Segel says for her, Sharon's ability to help her live in the moment and keep her focus on something other than her cancer was what was most beneficial for her.

Sharon Lee Parker says that while being treated here in Houston she began writing a book about her experience. It's called "Look Out Cancer Her I Come: How I Beat the Odds and Came Out a Winner." All of the proceeds go to her "Life Lover Foundation" which funnels money directly to researchers working on new and novel research projects in cancer therapeutics. You can find out more about Sharon and her foundation with links at kuhf.org.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...