I have learned a great deal since my diagnosis. I have pursued many complimentary therapies alongside the chemotherapy my oncologist has recommended and I have made changes to my diet and lifestyle. What I want to share with you is the most important lesson that I have learned on this journey so far. That is that I must be my own advocate for my health and treatment.
As a cancer patient you quickly discover that there is a whole world of information and advice that you never considered when you were healthy. Much of the information is valuable and helpful. Some of it is just non-sense. I have been very fortunate to have met mostly amazing, kind, caring individuals in the medical profession, both Western medicine and alternative medicine.
However, what I know now is that you must be the squeaky wheel and insist on the support and treatments that you know are best for you. You, and you alone, know what your body needs to heal and fight cancer. You must listen to that inner voice when it tells you something is not right. You must speak up and insist on tests, procedures and support that you know you need. You must insist on second and third opinions when that inner voice tells you something just doesn’t feel right for you.
We are all entitled to the best care and access to the best caregivers that our healthcare system has to offer. If you are not happy with something or someone it is up to you to speak up for yourself. When you have cancer you have to take responsibility for your own healthcare plan. That is not to say there are not great people out there to help you. I have encountered some of the most amazing, talented healthcare professionals on my journey so far.
I encourage anyone who has been diagnosis with a serious illness to take your healthcare into your own hands. Read about your diagnosis and really understand what it means. Try not to be intimidated or scared by statistics like survival rates. They are always out of date because advances in medicine move much faster than what can be calculated in a five year survival statistic. Ask lots of questions of your doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. They are there to support you and to give you the best care they can. Write down your questions before your appointments so that you don’t forget something. Get second opinions, ask about other supports available like psycho-social support, pain management, dietary consultations, help managing at home, support groups, etc.
We are very fortunate to have many services for cancer patients in Nova Scotia but you do have to ask for them and sometime be very assertive to get what you need. Just remember, this is your life and your health and you are worth fighting for.