A Compassion Thing

Lisa Carter brings experience and empathy to her role as cancer coach

By Julie Cope Saetre

»When she married Jamie Carter — now the owner of Carter Plumbing — in 1988, Lisa Carter brought with her far more than an affinity for marketing, accounting and payroll, which she handles for the family business.

She also brought a passion for nursing that has since evolved into what she terms “a ministry” — the role of cancer coach. As such, she conducts research for clients and helps them create a “game plan and a strategy” to fight the disease and then helps them carry out the agreed-upon protocol.

“It’s definitely a holistic approach,” she said. “It’s pretty involved.”

The process includes a full nutritional assessment of the patient and a resulting food plan to best support the client during chemotherapy or another form of treatment. Carter also draws up an appropriate exercise routine and helps clients deal with stress and other emotional conflicts. And she researches what alternative methods and clinical trials might be available, something overwhelmed patients and their families might not have the time or presence of mind to do.

“There are just so many different things that you can do, and I don’t think people realize that,” she said. “They’re in shock. … People collapse (upon diagnosis).”

Carter knows this from personal experience. Her father, Roger Cole, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000 and died from the disease in 2004. Lisa’s husband, Jamie, successfully battled testicular cancer in 2003 by undergoing an intensive nine-week chemotherapy regimen.

So Carter relates to her clients’ emotional turmoil and “learning the ropes of being diagnosed with cancer.” And she remembers her own reaction.

“When I look back at my dad, I trusted the doctor at that point in time,” she said. “Now I would have handled it differently. I think it’s good to have as many avenues open (as possible) and definitely cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s.”

Those family experiences with cancer inspired Carter to become a cancer coach. She was already well-prepared to start the journey, having graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in nursing and a B.A. in public health promotions. Even after marrying Jamie and entering the Carter family business, she kept up with the health and nursing fields through professional and medical publications.

In 2011, Carter traveled to Canada to train as a cancer coach in a three-level program. Level 1 certifies the participant as a breast cancer coach. Level 2 expands that certification to all other forms of cancer. And Level 3 focuses on educating patients and their families about cancer and how to cope with a diagnosis.

Since then, she has coached some 20 adult patients in the United States and Canada, receiving referrals through word-of-mouth, the National Association of Professional Cancer Coaches (cancerwipeout.org) and her cancercoachrn.com website. The coaching can be by phone and email from the Carters’ Trafalgar home or through in-person visits. In one case, an Arizona resident called for guidance in approaching a rare carcinoma; in another, Carter attended every doctor’s appointment with a client facing Stage 4 breast cancer.

“I pour myself out in trying to research as much as possible,” she explained. “But I gain so much new knowledge myself. It’s definitely worth it to know all the different alternatives. There’s just so much out there. There’s a plethora of … knowledge that you can gain.”

While helping to run a long-standing family business and coaching cancer patients might seem enough to fill anyone’s planner, Carter doesn’t stop there. Before she fell in love with nursing, she had planned to be an accountant, and she handles accounting for the Carters’ property management and storage businesses as well as for Carter Plumbing. And both the Carters and their plumbing company are dedicated to charitable work locally, nationally and internationally.

Light the Night, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is close to Carter’s heart because of her father’s illness, and Carter Plumbing is an event sponsor each year. The company also supports Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) in honor of Jamie’s successful battle.

Carter Plumbing also pays for each of its technicians to sponsor a student at The Crossing in Whiteland, an alternative school with a mission “to empower struggling students to become contributing members of their communities.” The school works with students on accredited courses, job training and faith-based mentoring.

This past Christmas, the Carters took gifts to children living in the Meridian-Raymond Neighborhood area. And earlier this year, Jamie remodeled a bathroom for a family who lost their father in an automobile accident last fall. Other area residents and businesses have taken on much-needed home repairs for the family as well.

Outside of Carter Plumbing, mission trips are a family priority. In 2012, she, Jamie and their daughter, Lauren, 24, traveled to Haiti, where Jamie completed a plumbing project for an orphanage. (Son Kelson, 25, doesn’t like to fly, so he held down the family business he has entered.)

She and Lauren also have completed mission trips to Costa Rica and Cartagena, Colombia, all through Bridges of Hope International, which is affiliated with Greenwood-based Emmanuel Church, which the Carters attend. And through Mount Pleasant Christian Church, the Carter family’s former church, she traveled on a mission trip to an Arizona Navajo reservation.

The family’s charitable motivation is simple: “The ability to be able to give back to others,” she said. “Definitely to reach out in our community and support people who are struggling and need that help. It’s definitely a compassion thing.”

Between work, coaching and volunteerism, Carter doesn’t have an abundance of free time. When her schedule does ease up? The simple pleasures are what count. “I do have a granddog, so he comes over,” she said, laughing.