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The Courage to Speak Up

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Apr 2015 04:06 PM

In a dozen years of undergoing cancer treatment on and off, I have asked countless questions in an effort to better understand my doctors’ plans. But I never questioned whether those plans were in my best interests.

A friend suggested that I’m too compliant, but I disagree. After all, “U.S. News and World Report” lists Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where I was treated for leukemia, as among the top five cancer treatment centers in the world.

(They are, in order, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.; University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas; Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center; and Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md.)

Dana-Farber doctors saved my life four times. But if your doctor has saved your life just once, that’s all it takes to develop a sense of trust.

But survivors can sometimes forget that we are consumers of a healthcare product — though it’s not like shopping in any other kind of marketplace.

Even if you’re not being treated at a major medical center, you can get lulled into thinking you should never question your healthcare providers. Because they’re the geniuses — right?

The truth is: They’re not always right. And it might take courage to speak up, but if something is bothering you, you owe it to yourself to voice your concerns.

I thought about this recently when I received contradictory information about a plan for treating a symptom that has developed six years after my bone marrow transplant.

Describing it in detail would probably be confusing, so I will just say that when my nurse practitioner asked me how I felt about the proposal, my gut response was to say, “OK, because I always do whatever you say.”

But when I got home, I realized I that didn’t feel OK about it. I even lost sleep over the weekend worrying about how I would voice my concerns on Monday.

In the end, I decided to write an email to my nurse practitioner so that she would see it when she got to work and hopefully have a chance to discuss what I wrote with my doctor before talking to me later in the day.

I’m glad I sent the email because it helped me better understand the concerns I was having. If you aren’t certain what to say, try writing it down, even if you don’t send an email.

By sending that email, I was able to put the treatment on hold for a little while, and also lay the groundwork for the conversation that was to follow.

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Ronni-Gordon
In a dozen years of undergoing cancer treatment on and off, I have asked countless questions in an effort to better understand my doctors’ plans. But I never questioned whether those plans were in my best interests.
healthcare, cancer, Dana-Farber, nurse practitioner
429
2015-06-14
Tuesday, 14 Apr 2015 04:06 PM
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