The Journey to Becoming a Cancer DoulaDec 01, 2020 08:08PM ● By Candi Broeffle
Photo Credit Jeannine Pohl of Block Studios
When Talaya Dendy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011, she had no idea where to start. There was so much information, terminology she did not understand, research that needed to be done and appointments that needed to be made—all of this while facing the most difficult and scary time in her life. Having been a healthy person all her life, Dendy was not a sophisticated consumer of medical services. At just 35 years old, it was overwhelming.
For nearly two weeks, she stumbled her way through, but this was not how a supply chain analyst manages her life. It was time to put her love of learning, analytical mind and organizational skills into action. She decided to move from feeling powerless and uneducated about her health to becoming its gatekeeper.
She began by researching Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to understand what she could expect, what challenges she might face and what opportunities were there to be pursued. Then she put an action plan in place. She began by gathering information from credible resources, focusing on websites that ended with .org and .edu as well as medical journals. She paid attention to the magazines shared at the cancer clinic and hospitals and subscribed to those as well. This education proved to be the key to making sound decisions.
Dendy then thought about what she really wanted and the quality of life she hoped to lead. She got honest about the things she needed to change in her life, including her eating habits, exercise and mindset. She was determined to leave behind the uncertainty and fear and focus on the things she could control. She ensured she was fully prepared for appointments with her oncologist, writing down questions about the care and treatment she would be getting, and bringing these in a notebook so she could take notes during their discussions. She formed close relationships with her oncologist and care team and demonstrated how invested she was in her own care in order to be taken seriously. “I knew that if I was going to survive cancer and live the quality of life that I wanted, I had to dig deep and become the leader of my journey,” Dendy shares. “I realized no one else could do it, and that I had to become the expert of me.”
As she gained more knowledge, she became more confident and felt more in control. She was no longer relying on other’s opinions and advice; rather, she was taking steps toward what she wanted to accomplish in her journey. The lessons learned along the way were invaluable, including:
- Understanding how the body and mind work together as powerful allies. What you put into your mind flows down to your body. By focusing on past traumas, the feelings of fear, anger and victimization ultimately suppress your immune system. You must acknowledge these emotions, work through them, and release them with the help of meditation, prayer and journaling.
- Understanding there is only so much we can control in our lives. Instead of focusing on, why did this happen to me?, she thought about how she could come out of this experience in a better space. She educated herself and acted on what she could physically and mentally do at that moment.
- Learning to listen and respect your body. Prior to her diagnosis, Dendy was often stressed, and instead of seeking help, she would plow through it. Now, she takes a step back, determines if something is not working in her life and gets rid of it. She got rid of her addiction to sugar and began drinking more water to flush the toxins from the treatment. She ensured she ate a balanced diet and scheduled time to rest every day. She prioritized tasks to conserve her energy for things that absolutely needed to be done while letting go of others.
- Leaning on your faith. Dendy developed prayer affirmations to feed her mind by looking up scriptures on health, healing, love and hope. She read these first thing every morning.
After three months of treatment, Dendy was told she was in remission. Instead of feeling ecstatic about not needing more treatments, she oddly felt more alone than ever. She now faced the uncertainty of the long-term effects of treatment and needing to pick up the pieces of her personal and professional life. It took nearly three years after remission for her to no longer fear a recurrence of the disease. “Unfortunately, the fear of the cancer returning is never far from your thoughts,” explains Dendy. “I realized that my journey is similar to other peoples’, and in that, I found my purpose.”
Utilizing everything she learned through her cancer journey, Talaya Dendy decided to become a cancer doula and opened her business, On The Other Side in the Twin Cities. She became a certified coach and developed a unique approach that is focused on the specific needs of those diagnosed with cancer. It includes four areas of focus:
1. Health - helping you become the gatekeeper of your health by working together to implement self-care and lifestyle changes to improve your quality of life, including focusing on nutrition and integrative approaches to promote healing.
2. Treatment - assisting you in understanding your treatment options by conducting research and explaining the results, as well as exploring alternative therapies that may be helpful in your journey.
3. Emotional Support – to move you from catastrophic thinking to taking action on the things you can control, while using the mind-body connection to your advantage.
4. Communication – improving it with your care team, family and friends, helping you to create more meaningful and less awkward interactions.
“Nobody understands what you are going through quite like another cancer survivor,” says Dendy. “This support is a critical part of your recovery.”To learn more and to schedule a free 45-minute introductory call, visit OnTheOtherSide.life.