Q: Why did you choose to work with people impacted by cancer?
Charli: This is my 2nd career. I decided to work with hospice and oncology patients after my first cancer diagnosis at age 27. When I was diagnosed a 2nd time at age 35, I KNEW that working with cancer patients was going to be challenging, so I worked with hospice patients first. I wanted to put a few years between me and my diagnosis so that I could be an effective practitioner to those who were in need of professional support.
Q: Have you ever had a specific experience where you felt, “This is why I do this”?
Charli: Just ONE? I get many at each and every shift. I should keep count at each shift how many people THANK ME for simply returning their call, or listening to them rather than passing them on to another resource if we can’t help them with their particular issue. Some days callers just need a place to put their pain. We are that place.
Q: How do you help patients cope with all the stress and emotional turmoil of the cancer experience?
Charli: I never try to “fix it” for them with platitudes. Cancer patients need to hear that what they are going through stinks. The call line is a place for them to find refuge, to be heard, to vent. Finding them resources is only part of our job on the call line. We have a commitment to each and every caller to hear them out, and if we can’t find an answer for them, we’ll at least listen to their story and try to find an organization that may be able to link them to someone who CAN assist them. Some days, when nothing is there to help them out of their situation, I have to remember that some times, all we can do is hold that painful space for them. If they aren’t open to really sharing their story, I may just ask them “how are you holding up” or what are you going to do for yourself when you hang up?”
Q: How do you cope with the emotional rollercoaster that your job can put you through?
Charli: I have a daily yoga and meditation practice. I also teach yoga and meditation to special populations (veterans, cancer patients, MS patients, bigger bodied yogis). Becoming a registered yoga teacher was just part of my journey to better self care after realizing I wasn’t “walking my talk” after several years of survivorship. When we take on another’s pain, the only way to shed that pain is through movement and acts of joy.