One of the hardest parts of a cancer diagnosis is learning how to be an advocate for your own health. Here are 5 things our community members learned about how make their voices heard.
#1 Don’t be intimidated by the health care system
The best way through the healthcare system is by educating yourself, especially on complicated terminology. This can feel easier said than done—from doctor lingo to insurance information, dealing with a whole new world of medical jargon can seem difficult when you are in an emotional and physical battle to survive. But it’s worth the effort. When you are an educated patient, you make better informed decisions for your health and well-being.
While getting educated is important, not all resources are created equal and not all of them can be trusted. Consulting with "Dr. Google" can have unintended consequences such as unnecessarily worrying you or your loved ones about potential outcomes. Being conscious that you're using medically approved resources and keeping a list of questions to discuss with your medical team will help.
#2 Trust your gut
You know your body best, so don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Remember that you don’t have to be intimidated by people in positions of power or authority or perceive their ideas as more important than your own. As one of our community members put it, “Lawyers, doctors, CEOs of companies...they are just people, and their position doesn’t make us less than them. We have to respect ourselves, trust our intuition and believe in what feeling we may be having.”
Not sure how to start listening to your gut? An easy tip is to ask yourself, “Is this making me uncomfortable?” and explore your response.
#3 Silence your own voices of doubt
We have a variety of voices in our own heads that prevent us from truly self-advocating, especially in stressful situations -- but it’s essential to quiet those voices to take care of our own health.
“Maybe I’m anxious. Maybe I’m overanalyzing. Maybe I’m living in fear. Maybe I’m overreacting." We tell ourselves these things far too often, and women in particular can have a hard time challenging what’s being said to them.
The good news is that in most cases, once you have learned to silence your inner critic you're likely to have a “domino effect” that will cascade to other areas of your life as well.
#4 Surround yourself with people who support you
One patient who interviewed said that once she allowed her sense of self-advocacy into all areas of her life, she realized her former husband wasn’t giving her the support she needed.
“I was moving so fast in life, I realized I wasn’t even in the right marriage,” she said. “ ... I realized I was truly unhappy, and tolerating things I shouldn’t be. The biggest battle is fighting for my life, so I had to be mindful of the decisions I was making.”
By surrounding yourself with people who will fight and advocate for you, your willpower to push on through tough diagnosis and treatments increases.
#5 Set boundaries on when to allow others in
Sometimes, people fighting serious illnesses are overwhelmed with the well-meaning outpouring of attention and questions from friends and family. Luckily, with a little help from modern technology, you can streamline your updates to your community and control when you are in the right headspace to communicate with others or not.
Try setting up a private Facebook group, a group text, or using a site like Caringbridge if you're having trouble managing your communications. Streamlining communications and updates can leave you valuable headspace to prioritize yourself and your health.