As a cancer patient, you rely on many people, including oncologists and other specialists, to help pave the way for your important journey. Even so, a cancer diagnosis can seem overwhelming and you may understandably feel helpless at times. Never forget that you are always your own strongest advocate.
To become the best possible self-advocate as you navigate the often uncertain "waters" of cancer treatment, you will need to empower yourself by taking on several different roles, including:
To many people, cancer is a frightening unknown. Therefore, the best way to tackle it is to educate yourself. Your most reliable source of information is your physician, who is familiar with your unique circumstances. Start by asking some basic questions, which will help you decide if your physician is a good listener. If not, seek a second opinion, and look for a physician who not only has the right credentials and experience but also meets other important—but intangible—criteria. Specifically, your physician should make you feel comfortable, take the time to listen to you and provide clear and thorough answers to your questions. By learning as much as possible about your condition, you will be better positioned to make fully informed treatment decisions and achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.
A cancer diagnosis can be intimidating, and like many people, you might be inclined to respond with silence. However, it will be important for you to overcome that hurdle because speaking up is an essential part of self-advocacy. You may find it helpful to sit quietly, organize your thoughts and jot down some notes before each medical appointment. Consider what you already know about your diagnosis, then aim to obtain any missing information you need to fill in the blanks. You will probably find that questions will continue to occur to you along the way, so this exercise can be useful regardless of whether you are just starting out or further along in your treatment.
You can count on your healthcare team to help you sort through all of your options and make expert recommendations, but remember: The final choice on how to proceed is yours. Also, keep in mind that every cancer patient and diagnosis is different, so what is right for one individual may be completely wrong for you. If you feel uncertain, continue to ask questions and seek information. You might also find it helpful to talk through your decisions with trusted family members and friends. If you would like additional support, ask your physician to put you in touch with a cancer advocacy group or a supportive care specialist. Be sure to take your time and choose the option you feel most comfortable with.
The effects of your cancer and its treatment can potentially extend far beyond your medical care and affect every aspect of your daily life, including your job. If you need your employer to make some reasonable accommodations to help you return to work, you will most likely have to negotiate an agreed-upon solution. Although the process can be tricky and delicate, it will be important for you to stick with it to reach a compromise, which will benefit both you and your employer.
With Moffitt Cancer Center, you never have to face cancer alone. To rapidly connect with an experienced and compassionate supportive care specialist, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We’re here to educate you about your specific cancer type and guide you through each step of your journey from diagnosis to treatment and survivorship. And, you can start benefiting from our cancer expertise within one day.