"A part of healing is taking back our management of our own health."
– Cathy Nobil-Dutton
Anyone who has had a diagnosis of cancer has spoken to their oncologist numerous times throughout the course of diagnosis and treatment. Initially, there are calls related to tests that have come back and recommendations of further testing and procedures. As treatment progresses, the conversations can involve treatment protocol questions and how to best deal with the side effects of the treatment. When treatment ends, there can be a sense of relief and also a feeling of concern.
For the weeks or months of diagnosis and treatment, the staff at the cancer center where you are being treated have been involved in your care on a regular basis and suddenly, it is over and you are left to go home and heal. At this point, you aren’t usually seen by your doctor for a few months. Gradually, over time, the every 2-3 month visit becomes every 6 months and then once a year.
Reason #1: You are Experiencing Pain One of the concerns that many of the people that I work with have after treatment ends is, “How do I know when to call the doctor?” or, as I refer to it, “when is something just a pain and when is it a PAIN? How are we supposed to know the difference?” After someone has cancer, we are more in tune with our bodies. Before, an abdominal pain or a headache may not have been given much attention, now, it is something to focus on and be concerned about. Is it something or nothing??
Too often, I hear people tell me that something doesn’t feel right but they are unsure about whether to phone their doctor. We all seem to be worried about not making a nuisance of ourselves or looking like a hypochondriac. People can spend a lot of time thinking about whether they should make the call to their doctor. It is so difficult to separate out what is real and what feels like it is just worry and anxiety that is creating physical concerns.
Reason #2: Learning to Trust Your Concerns I think it is an important component of the healing process that people are empowered to speak up and out for themselves. With all of the stress that cancer places on someone, the last thing a person needs to worry about is whether the question they have is silly or unimportant. One of the things that are lost when you have cancer is the certainty of your feelings. It isn’t as easy to trust what you think as it was before cancer because things changed quickly from being fine to having a serious health issue very suddenly. Part of the process of reclaiming oneself is to speak up about what is important to YOU! Don’t worry about whether or not the doctor is going to be irritated by your call because most likely they expect that people are going to be second guessing their bodies after treatment.
Reason #3: Ease Your Anxiety and Manage Your Health More significant than anything else…it is your body and your life. You have a right to know everything you need to know about it. It is perfectly fine to have a discussion that ends with the doctor telling you that everything is okay. Do what you need to ease your mind.
No one who has had cancer should spend any time on worry and anxiety about needing to be reassured or pointing out to a professional something that may be going on inside of them that concerns them.
A part of healing is taking back our management of our own health. It is a good thing…