How do I become my own expert? How can I learn to be my own advocate? When do I let my healthcare team make the decisions and when do I question the course of action that is being taken? These are questions you probably have asked yourself and others. Communicating with your healthcare team can be a daunting task. Getting caught in “voice mail hell” or not getting a response from numerous emails is an all too familiar experience. And we’ve all walked away from brief and unsatisfying interactions feeling dismissed.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. It’s important for you to let your provider know if you don’t understand something. Remember that there are no stupid questions and ask for clarification. Sometimes medical terms are used that none of us understand and it’s ok to ask your provider to speak in a language that you can understand.
Tell your provider when you feel you need more time to talk about what is going on for you. By doing this ahead of time, you may be able to speak with one of his assistants or a nurse if he isn’t available. If this doesn’t work, schedule another appointment. What’s important is that you don’t give up on what you need. By asking for more time with your provider you can engage him in a narrative process that allows you to tell your story. This helps him know and understand you as a complete person, not just a cancer patient.
Self advocacy = Showing Up. When I asked a group of breast cancer survivors on Facebook what had worked for them in communicating with their providers, one woman said, “interpretive dance.” I found this tongue-in-check response not only hilarious but actually right on target. If that’s how you express your point of view, why not do a little dance for the doc?
Don’t let yourself become a number – the more you let yourself be known, the more present you are, the more in charge you will feel of your health and well being.