No matter where you might be in your cancer experience, newly diagnosed or 10-year survivor, self-advocacy is important!  When you are a proactive and educated patient, you can influence the quality of your life and the care you receive.  In a situation where you often feel a loss of control, advocacy can give you stability and a feeling of regaining some of that control.

Some of the things you might do include:

-Researching your disease and the treatments available

-Using reputable and reliable sources for the information you seek

-Ensuring that you understand the stage and/or grade of your cancer, as well as the impacts of treatment

-Writing out questions in advance of medical appointments (and having a family member or friend take notes, while you listen)

-Understanding your insurance coverage and how premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurances work

-Deciding if you’d like to seek a second opinion and if so, pursuing that option

-Connecting with other patients and survivors – online, at conferences, in support groups, etc.

-Creating or updating your advanced directives, power of attorney, and/or wills

Self-advocacy requires that you participate in the decision-making processes related to your care.  However, if you’re not able to fully participate or you prefer it, self-advocacy can also mean selecting a ‘team captain’ from your support network.  Advocating for yourself can often transform feelings of hopelessness and helplessness into those of hope and control.

For more information, check out:

http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/managing-your-care/taking-charge-your-care

http://www.canceradvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Self_Advocacy.pdf

By: Meghan Fitzgibbons, Young Adult Patient Navigator at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center