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