When I started treatment, my goal was to make sure the medical staff thought of me as the perfect patient. I was going to do exactly what they said to do and follow all the rules – and I was going to be happy about it.
The first six or seven months, that was the way I operated. I went through chemotherapy and a lumpectomy. At one point the team decided I should have a port implanted in my chest so the drugs could be administered without needles in the arm.
I preferred to undergo the surgery under conscious sedation to implant the port because I didn’t seem to recover as quickly when I was fully sedated for a surgery. The anesthesiologist was someone I knew, and we were talking before the surgery. Then they put the drape up between my face and the surgical field so I couldn’t see where they would be cutting. I was still very aware of what was going on even though I couldn’t see it or (theoretically) feel the surgery. I heard the anesthesiologist say, “Ok now – no whining.” I steeled myself, “I’m going to be good and I’m going to be strong and I’m not going to whine.”
But the surgery was not what I expected at all. During one part of the procedure, when the surgeon was using what seemed like a hammer and chisel to pound the port in place inside my chest, I didn’t think I could take it. I was trying so hard to be strong, but it was awful and I felt like passing out. But I didn’t whine.
After the procedure, I told the anesthesiologist how hard it had been. And his face contorted and turned white. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he said, upset. “It’s my job to make sure you’re comfortable!”
“But you said, no whining,” I replied.
I was shocked when he said, “I was talking to one of the nurses.”
Light bulbs went off. Right then I realized that I was the only one in the room who had information about how I was feeling, and it was my job as part of the team responsible for my health to communicate that information. I needed to stop being a compliant, non-complaining patient. I needed to speak up and share the information about what was going on inside my body with the rest of the people who were working with me to try to fix it.
In the course of the next six to seven months, I completely changed how I interacted. I learned how to give myself a shot I had to take daily so I didn’t have to wait on a nurse or get an appointment. I worked with my doctor on a daily plan for my medication, which needed to be adjusted regularly when we were trying to figure out what would work. I had gotten to the place where I knew what I needed. My doctor was reviewing my suggestions, but I was making decisions. I credit that engaged, that empowered, behavior as one of the reasons I was cured.
How have you taken control of your own healthcare decisions? What do you do to prepare for a doctor’s visit? Do you feel comfortable approaching your doctor with ideas or information?
Tomorrow’s Post: Enduring the Journey, Finding the Cure