The following is a guest Blog I wrote for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation:
“You have cancer.” Three of the most dreaded words you can hear from your doctor. Your world has changed and you feel a loss of control. A moment ago you were a student, parent, wife, maybe even a doctor. Now, suddenly, you are a patient. In the ensuing panic, disbelief, fear, and confusion you have to make decisions. But you don’t feel like a patient. Maybe accepting the role of patient is unsettling to you. You are not just a patient, someone who is expected to passively accept the treatment plan being offered, you are a person. Being a passive participant in your care is a recipe for disaster. As an empowered individual, you can take the path of action and self-advocacy; you can be part of your treatment team.
Empowerment is essential in the fight against cancer. It can help you to successfully navigate the cancer journey. Every individual is different and every situation is different. Knowing your options and obtaining the necessary information is critical in order to make the right choices for you, for your cancer. The right plan and the right team can make all the difference in mortality as well as in quality of life.
You have more options than you think when choosing a treatment plan. Conventional (allopathic) medicine offers surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other medical interventions to battle cancer. For many, this is the route to take. For others, surgery may be acceptable, but radiation and or chemotherapy either are not an option or are not acceptable to the patient. Some will take the integrative approach, combing conventional with alternative therapies. Massage, acupuncture, nutritional therapy and other treatments associated with complementary medicine can support patients during their journey, and more and more allopathic cancer facilities are incorporating integrative medicine into their programs. Still others will choose to use only alternative methods. The important thing is to choose what feels best to you. Keep in mind that within these methods, there will be further decisions to make, for example which of the surgeries available would be best or which alternative treatment would be the most effective and tolerable. Information is power and is necessary to a successful outcome.
Finding the right team is equally important. Institutions and doctors often have very different approaches to treatment, as well as different personalities. Be sure that your team understands your goals, limitations, fears, and questions. I cannot stress this enough. You deserve the “A Team”; you need the “A Team”, so find it. I recently had a client come to me post-surgery. She had a huge scar for a surgery that should have been very minor. However, her doctor had one mission, that being to remove the cancer. I know of many doctors who could have operated on her with minimal battle scars. If life after cancer, including cosmetic appearance, is important to you, you must be proactive in discussions with your team.
The cancer journey is not an easy one, but there are many wonderful doctors who can get you to the path of recovery. Just because a team or treatment has worked for others, make sure the plan is working for you. Teams work together. If you find it hard to communicate with your team, or are not getting results, fire them and find a new one. You owe it to yourself to get it right the first time.
Emerald Heart guest Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Inc., a breast cancer survivor and cancer empowerment coach. Elyn helps women diagnosed with cancer navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers. She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life. Her informative and helpful blog is enthusiastically read by many, and we are delighted to share her important words of experience and wisdom.
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