The Difficulty in Being Our Own Cancer Patient Advocate

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

Let’s be real. If you asked others if they want to become involved in their own medical health and treatment, most people would probably answer no, they wouldn’t. Without any medical background, they prefer to leave it to the professionals. Many believe that it is actually irresponsible to even consider becoming involved in such a thing. Such an idea sounds so ridiculous. But, if we dig a little deeper, we might just find that a lack of education in medicine has nothing to do with it. We don’t want to become involved because we are fearful that if we do and something goes wrong, it might be our own fault and we would have no one else to blame. We may think that we are not smart enough to do so or we may say that we don’t have enough time to devote to doing such work. But, it is my belief that there is something completely different that governs our lack of desire to become involved in our own medical care.

“If we understand why we are making the choices that we are, it will be easier to make changes in those choices – if we choose to do so.Barbara Jacoby

If you think about it, do you remember how you felt the last time you were sick? Do you remember what you wanted more than anything else? You wanted someone else to tell you what you needed to do in order to get better. You wanted someone to get and then give to you what you needed. You wanted to be left alone to sleep or relax or do whatever you needed in order to feel comfortable while you were recovering. You wanted someone to take care of you and you wanted someone to empathize with you and to let you know that they were there for you no matter what you needed or wanted.

The last thing you wanted to do was to try to figure out what may have made you sick or what you might need to do in order to get better. If what you were experiencing was something like a cold, you just wanted to be allowed to rest and do things on your own terms while someone else brought you chicken soup, Kleenex, cough medicine, a glass of water and anything else your heart desired. If it was anything more than that, you would probably have sought medical care. If your doctor assured you that it was nothing major and that you needed to do a couple of things to get better or improve your situation, you left that office feeling relieved and with no need to make any big decisions. You had been reassured that all was right with the world and you went merrily on your way.

However, if you were given a diagnosis by the doctor that something major was going on, your response was probably one of fear about what the future would hold for your life but, in addition, it was the same as any other time when you were sick. You wanted someone else to tell you what you needed to do, someone else to take care of you, someone else to deal with all of your other needs and responsibilities outside of the diagnosis and someone who would be there by your side throughout all of your treatment and recovery. The last thing you would want is to start researching your own disease or illness and spending your time doing much of anything else other than focusing on how you are feeling and what you can do to feel better in the moment.

This is perfectly natural. We want to be cared for just like our mothers cared for us when we were hurt or sick as children. We want our doctors to either come to us as they did during those times or if we went to the doctor, we want to be reassured that everything will be okay and leave with a lollipop. We don’t want to have to be responsible for doing our own thinking and planning and decision making. We want someone else to do those things for us. We believe that no one else knows as much as we do about our own businesses or types of work so we can’t begin to think that investigating other options to our medical treatment and working on a plan of treatment with our doctors could even be a viable option.

In the long run, it is completely up to the individual but there are many reasons why people do not want to take on any responsibility for their own health. It is no different than receiving any other advice or direction from a doctor and deciding whether to heed it or ignore it. There will always be a reason, or an excuse for everything we choose to do or not do in life. It all depends on the individual and choices. But, perhaps if we understand why we are making the choices that we are, it will be easier to make changes in those choices – if we choose to do so.