I am a firm believer in the necessity of being one’s own staunchest advocate. This is true for all areas of your life, but it’s vital if you want to receive the best medical care.
This is not to say you shouldn’t have trust and faith in your team of medical care providers, but you do need to feel free to speak your mind, have your opinions heard, ask questions, stand up for yourself and ultimately make the final decisions.
Perhaps most importantly, when something is being discussed and you don’t understand it, ask and then keep asking for clarification until you do understand.
Actually doing these things is much easier said than done, especially when faced with a serious diagnosis like cancer.
When you receive a cancer diagnosis, you are initially in a state of disbelief. You feel as if the words “you have cancer” must be describing someone else. I remember quite vividly the afternoon I received the phone call confirming my diagnosis and the disconnection I felt to those words.
I couldn’t believe they were describing me. It seemed impossible.
After receiving a cancer diagnosis, a person is in a very vulnerable state of mind. Yet during this period, you are suddenly faced with the harsh reality of seemingly countless appointments and procedures.
In addition, you are trying to absorb volumes of new information while also attempting to make life-altering decisions. At times it all seems just too overwhelming because it is.
Yet this is the time when you must advocate for yourself most diligently.
In order to do this effectively I believe one must take the time to step back, breathe, slow things down a bit and think things through.
Too often decisions are rushed.
While this need to hurry up, get the cancer out and just get on with it is understandable, it might not be the best strategy. Of course, taking too long isn’t good either, but generally it’s okay to take some time.
Usually a cancer diagnosis is not an immediate medical emergency, even though it certainly feels like the emergency of a lifetime. My doctors kept reassuring me most cancers have a window of six weeks or so. During this time frame, tumors don’t generally change enough to impact decision making.
Therefore after a diagnosis, there is usually time to absorb, process and adjust to your new reality. During this period of days or even weeks one can mentally prepare, gather information, compile lists of questions and hopefully put together a plan.
By taking this extra time, you will undoubtedly become better informed, feel mentally more prepared and ultimately feel more empowered to make better decisions.
You will begin to feel more in control of your medical care and your life.
It won’t be easy. In fact, at times it will seem undoable.
Ultimately, it is your life. It is your cancer. It is your body. The final choices are yours to make.
Isn’t this really what being your own best advocate is all about?
Did you feel rushed to make decisions after your diagnosis?
Do you find medical self-advocacy to be difficult?
When did/do you feel most over-whelmed?