Find Your Way to Success
Being your own advocate means making sure you are receiving the best possible care for your cancer. Be an informed consumer of health care and work with your health-care providers.
Many hospitals and medical centers have patient advocates to help you deal with questions and issues related to your cancer care. There also are national patient advocacy organizations for most of the common cancers. But in the long run, you are your own best advocate.
Once you are diagnosed with cancer, request copies of your medical records so you know your exact diagnosis and the tests used to determine it, especially your pathology report. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) grants patients access their own medical records and control of the circumstances under which the records are disclosed.
As your own advocate, you want to make sure you are receiving care from a physician with experience and expertise in treating your particular type of cancer. Here are some other things you can do for yourself during your cancer care:
Get together with your loved ones to decide on the best treatment facility for you.
Ask your doctor and other health-care providers about clinical trials of new treatments for your cancer.
Go the Internet where there is a wealth of information. Look at the Web sites recommended throughout this site. They have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness.
Learn all you can about your treatment, its side effects and tips for surviving cancer.
Caregivers and Counselors
While you are going through cancer treatment, you will need help, both physical and emotional. You will need help from caregivers for a variety of daily tasks, such as shopping for food, cooking meals and running errands. You may also need counselors for mental and emotional support.
A caregiver is someone who helps you get through your cancer treatment by assisting you with the tasks of daily living, such as getting to medical appointments, bathing, getting dressed or eating, that you may not be able to perform by yourself when you are weak and in pain from treatment.
A counselor is a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, who is trained to help you deal with your feelings, worries and concerns.
It’s a good idea to identify more than one person to help you out with daily living tasks. Try to build a team of caregivers. Start with your family and friends, but be prepared to go outside this circle into your community to find the caregivers you need. Many towns and cities have community volunteers who help others near where they live or work. You might also need to pay people to be your caregivers. Hospitals and home-care agencies can provide skilled nursing care or arrange for someone to stay with you when family and friends cannot.
You can help your caregivers by making a list of important phone numbers, such as the numbers of your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, family members, neighbors, friends and spiritual leaders. Keep a copy of the list next to your phone.
Also make a list of the drugs you take, how often you take them and the doses. Let your caregivers know about the side effects. In addition, tell your caregivers where to locate important paperwork, such as your insurance policies, social security papers, living will and power of attorney.
Your family and friends can often offer you emotional support and you can join support groups. However, there may also be times when you will need to seek help from a mental health professional to deal with the emotional stress cancer treatment can cause.
Psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric social workers are trained to help you identify and cope with such feelings as sadness, depression or grief. Psychiatrists are also medical doctors who can prescribe drugs for depression and anxiety. Ask your doctor to refer you to a qualified mental health professional if you feel you need these services.