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Coaching through & beyond Cancer – Fiona Stimson

Positive Outcomes through Coaching

Coaching is not currently commissioned for patients on the NHS and Fiona Stimson volunteers on a team of coaches who specialise in supporting cancer patients and their families. She is also part of a PhD study being conducted in conjunction with The British Psychological Society to determine cancer coaching standards at The Fountain Centre, a charity within The Royal Surrey Hospital.


A cancer diagnosis

Many people describe the experience of learning they have cancer as feeling that their world had stopped in that moment. They describe the fear of not knowing what is going to happen to them as ‘petrifying’, facing surgery and treatments ‘traumatising’ and levels of fear & anxiety can hit an all-time high.


Coaching and the cancer journey

Coaching helps cancer patients and their families from diagnosis and treatment to living with, and beyond, cancer, including metastatic disease.

Coaching aligns holistically with conventional treatment and other therapies to support and empowers patients by being heard and understood. It offers time and space for them to express without judgement or advice, helping them to build strength and courage, develop a greater understanding of themselves and their situation and create inner resourcefulness and resilience.

Patients can feel many things including a loss of control, acceptance difficulty, anxiety, body confidence issues, loss of identity, fear of the future and survivorship guilt.

It’s important to simply ‘be’ with whatever comes up during the coaching process and empathy, kindness and compassion are a key part of the process, alongside an appropriate dose of humour.


Removing Limits and staying in the present

Removing limiting beliefs

Unhelpful beliefs can be addressed – for example, ‘my mum died of this so I will too’

NLP and other techniques are used to enable the patient to think and manage in a different, more balanced and positive way.

Reducing Anxiety

Understanding and removing negative and unhelpful emotional states, improving mental stability to manage thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours.

Personal Identity

Working through grieving for their ‘old self’ and learning to create a new identity with new possibilities.

Body image

Building post-surgery confidence, acceptance and appreciation

Work & Career

Supporting clients to work during and post treatment as well as explore career changes.

Managing Pain

Helping clients manage their pain (sensation) and reducing the way they view and experience it.

“When I first met Fiona, I was in pieces. I didn’t have answers to my questions, I was scared, and this was severely affecting my life and ability to cope. Coaching helped me identify my unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and change my thinking to be more positive and empowering.  Change was driven by me to stay on my own journey rather than that of others and I’ve re-wired my old unhelpful habits into new, useful ones and built my mental and emotional strength and capabilities. I’m now able to tune into my unconscious mind, listen to it and work with it to overcome situations I find unsettling”.  Debbie, breast cancer patient. Staying present

When facing a diagnosis of cancer and chronic illness, learning to be in the ‘now’ is key to calmness. Becoming immersed in the intensity of what’s going can be detrimental to wellbeing and mental health so learning to relax, breathe & refocusing attention is valuable.

The mind/body connection is a powerful one through which spiritual, emotional and behavioural factors can contribute to imbalances in the body and it is important to understand and release these, taking action to re-establish balance and help prevent illness and improve health outcomes.


Fiona Stimson is a Certified Personal Performance Coach and Master Practitioner of NLP & Clinical Hypnotherapy, coaching clients with cancer and chronic illness, their families and NHS Professionals & Leaders. She is training for her Masters in Coaching, works for The Royal Marsden Cancer Centre and runs her business at The Surrey Psychology Practice. Fiona is an Associate for Working with Cancer, a social enterprise working with those impacted by Cancer and a finalist for the International NLP Awards in the healthcare category.