Practice Proactive Self Advocacy
Dealing with a Diagnosis
No matter how much you prepare, battling cancer takes its toll. Many people struggle with depression after a cancer diagnosis and often angrily question, “Why me?” Whether you are in an early or late stage of diagnosis, here are a few steps you can take to help your treatment and recovery:
- Calm Yourself: It is normal to become anxious and highly emotional after a diagnosis. Allow yourself time to get through the anxiety. Cancer is a serious illness and experiencing these types of emotions are natural.
- Find Support: No one should face cancer alone! Let your family and friends know and join support groups for people with your type of cancer. If there is not one in your area, talk to your doctor about local groups that can help and find cancer forums online. Ideally, you can find physical groups, but more and more people find value in the virtual world. Remember, most people do not know what to say to someone who is ill so give them examples of how they can help you.
- Educate Yourself: Find out everything you can about treatment options for your type of cancer. Knowledge is power and it is certainly a prerequisite for successful interaction with your cancer support team. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to navigate your experiences.
- Be Prepared: Before each appointment, take time to generate a list of questions. If there are terms you do not understand, ask. Make sure to get a second opinion.
- Relax: Stress is a large part of any major disease and it has direct physical effects. Stress lowers the immune system and increases the side effects of treatment. Make time to relax by getting involved in hobbies that you enjoy or by finding a quiet place to meditate. Doing so can help to keep your physical and mental well-being at its best.
- Express Yourself: Many people fighting cancer experience a wide variety of feelings. It is important to express those feelings. Consider talking to a counselor, starting a journal or confiding in a loved one or trusted friend. Presenting a strong front all the time can be tiring and detrimental to your recovery. Help ease the stress by protecting your mental, physical and emotional state. Allow yourself to feel any emotions you may have, but work on channeling negative emotions into positive actions.
- Maintain Hope: Hope and a positive attitude make all the difference… so make sure to keep your hope alive.
As in life, you are your best advocate! Proactive advocacy involves doing things designed to protect you and your rights. Educate yourself about all your options!
Here are a few easy steps you can use to help protect yourself when dealing with medical issues including, but not limited to, cancer:
- Be Vigilant: Keep a record of anything that is out of the ordinary. How you feel, different support personnel, doctor directions and more.
- Maintain Your Records: Make sure that all your medical records are accurate and up to date. The more your doctors know about your medical history, the better your cancer treatment team can treat you.
- You’re the Patient: Remember that you are the patient. You have the right to ask questions and participate in your treatment. If you do not understand what is going on, you might make choices that aren’t in your best interest.
- Track Medications: Medication interactions create the largest percentage of errors in the health care industry. It is important to make sure that you carefully document all medications that you are taking. Many people overlook herbal supplements or common drugs like allergy medications or cold medicine. Even common daily medications and supplements can cause complications with your cancer medications and treatment. Keep an accurate listing of all medications and supplements you take to help eliminate this common error.
- Find An Advocate: Being proactive means taking the initiative. If you have the funds available, consider hiring a professional to see after your interests. Advocates are there to protect your rights.
You do not have to deal with cancer alone. Consider the benefits of being proactive when it comes to your cancer treatment and recovery. Consider asking a friend, family member or hire a professional to oversee your care and rights. If you have been diagnosed, do not wait be proactive.