1) Always remember…To explore all options.
a. This may mean shopping around for doctors. If the practice you are in has not met your needs, then you are entitled to a practice that will. You do not need to feel obligated to stay.
b. Treatment options may be available that you have not tried. Keep yourself educated about the options that are out there, and don’t be afraid to ask about them during your appointments.
c. LEARN! LEARN! LEARN! Education=Empowerment!
d. Take notes! Either write everything down, or if possible record your appointments. When I first started on this little adventure 9 years ago, I would come home look back at my notes and see random disjointed comments and wonder “What the heck was that about?!”. Having a record of things said during your appointments can really make later reflection easier. It’s very tough to remember everything said during an appointment without taking notes.
e. Make note of your experiences. Things that happen to you outside of your appointments may be very important for the doctor to see. Symptoms, illnesses, general “weirdnesses” as I call them. These are all things that you may want to keep track of.
2) Always remember…To keep accurate records (See “The Infamous Binder”)
a. Keep copies of test results. Your doctor’s office will almost certainly be happy to provide you copies. My doctors know from experience that I will want a copy of my CBC, so they have a copy for me when I get there.
b. Keeping a binder will help you to keep track of appointment dates in reference to the rest of your notes too. It’s nice to have an accurate timeline of the different things that happen during the course of your treatment.
c. The binder is also a great place to keep the questions, and also the answers to those questions that you may have. This way you can go back over the Q&A at your leisure and review them as needed.
3) Always remember…Don’t be afraid to “look silly”.
a. Always Ask Questions!!! There is no such thing as a silly question when it comes to your health.
b. If after asking a question, you still don’t quite understand, ASK AGAIN. The doctor is there to guide you, and help you to understand your situation. Ask them to explain it in a different way if you need to, but ask again.
4) Always remember…To Find Your Voice
a. Assertive ≠ Pushy.
b. There are some people who think that by asking questions, they are “bothering” their health care professional. This is not the case, and if you feel that it IS the case…then please revisit rule 1) point a.
5) Always remember…Do NOT let yourself be rushed.
a. If you are not done with an appointment, still have questions, or are still not satisfied with the answers, tell that to the doctor, and request that they stay. If they are unwilling to do so, then I again refer you back to rule 1) point a.
6) Always remember…Doctors are service providers.
a. Therefore if you are unsatisfied with the service you are receiving, make them aware of it.
b. If nothing changes, then now is another time to refer back to rule 1) point a.
7) And most importantly, Always remember…Life does not stop just because you have an illness. Part of being an empowered patient is being fully present in situation. You still have to maintain your relationships, your job, your friendships, your finances etc. In order to do this you must be relaxed and in command of your all parts of your life and your treatment. I realize that this is much easier said than done, but it is vital to both your emotional and physical health.
As always, be your own advocate and be persistent. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will!