Self-advocacy is a powerful instrument to help you succeed in your fight against cancer. For some, it seems to come naturally. However, many people struggle with the idea of speaking up for themselves, questioning authority or going against what they have been told.
If you feel this way, you are certainly not alone, nor should you think less of yourself. These traits likely indicate that you are a selfless, polite and thoughtful individual who tends to put the feelings and desires of others ahead of your own. This is a wonderful way to live, but right now, your energy and focus must be primarily on your health and your needs.
Knowing that you need to advocate for yourself and knowing how to go about it are two different things. The following 10 steps will help you gain the knowledge and build the confidence you need to take charge of your health and your care.
1. Change Your Mindset
If you envision yourself as a victim of circumstance, try to view your situation in a different light. Instead, work on seeing yourself as a strong and competent survivor. You will feel more empowered, hopeful and capable of taking action.
2. Educate Yourself
Chances are good that you already know more about the type of cancer you have than you ever cared to know, but knowledge is power. Keep digging for information about treatment options. Seek reliable online sources that can help you learn about everything from nutrition to support groups to clinical trials.
3. Be Proactive
Initiate a conversation rather than waiting to see whether your insurance will cover a certain medication or your oncologist will suggest a treatment you learned about. These preemptive measures can give you a head start on your road back to wellness.
4. Spread Awareness
Being involved in efforts to increase public awareness about the type of cancer you are fighting has numerous benefits. Doing so can be a way to advocate while you are between treatments or researching options. It can help you gain support in your community and connect you with others who can relate with your experiences. This may also enable you to find out about new treatments or complementary therapies.
5. Ask for Help
Let’s face it: when you are undergoing treatment, you may not always have the energy it takes to advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to request specific support from those closest to you. For instance, you may want your spouse to go to an appointment with you and take notes on what the doctor says, or perhaps your best friend could help by researching side effects of a new medication.
6. Seek Supportive Relationships
Look for people who are also willing to help you advocate for yourself aside from family and friends. Find an oncologist who really listens to you. Reach out to a social worker who can help you deal with obstinate insurance providers. Seek out a counselor who can help you overcome anxieties and depression that might interfere with your health.
7. Communicate Clearly
Do not assume that your oncologist, spouse or others involved in your treatment and care are clear on your concerns, desires or necessities. Elucidating what you feel, want or need can help them help you to the best of their abilities.
8. Clarify and Question
Don’t end a conversation with your doctor, health insurance rep or other health care provider until you have a clear understanding of the information provided. Asking for clarification, alternatives or other details is your right.
9. Negotiate Effectively
While it may be outside of your comfort zone, conveying your needs to those outside of your immediate support circle can be highly beneficial to your recovery. For instance, perhaps you could negotiate working from home sometimes during chemo or maybe your neighbor could give your child a ride to school when you are not feeling well.
10. Don’t Quit
Learning to ask for help, stating what you want and essentially speaking up for yourself can be really tough, but keep at it. As you put your skills to practice and keep fighting for your own wellness, your abilities will become stronger and so will you.