How to be Your Own Medical Advocate.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Aug 9, 2013
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I’m glad that I figured out the importance of standing up for myself before I had a child.

Children, especially, need their parents to be more than just bobble-heads when they walk into a physician’s office.

It’s important to always ask questions and seek additional opinions, primarily when faced with more severe medical treatments.

Here are a few simple tips for how to be your own medical advocate, for both you and your dependent little ones:

1. Write down questions. I learned a long time ago to write my questions down before entering the doctor’s office.

Isn’t it the worst when you forget to ask something rather crucial, remembering your thoughts just as you pull back into your driveway?

Writing things down helps stop this from happening. Keep a small pad of paper and a pen with you so that you can jot concerns down as they arise.

2. Demand help. At one point, I had to petition my insurance company three times before they finally agreed to pay for me to go to the doctor of my choice.

The insurance company’s standpoint was that “I had not exhausted my resources” where I live, but I wanted to go to the best of the best (which was a facility a couple of hours away). I finally enlisted my general practitioner to help me bombard the insurance-powers-that-be, and they finally gave in and agreed to pay.

Point: don’t give up.

3. Do your own leg work. In relation to my last suggestion, obviously I had to put my own elbow grease into making things happen. Don’t assume that you’re owed something because you’re ill and need help.

I more than fully understand that when you’re in medical dire straits it becomes extra challenging to deal with this, but trust me when I say that you have to be able to do some of the preparatory work on your own.

Research doctors, medications and treatments so that you have the ability to be informed and inquisitive—and I’m talking about more than WebMD too.

Find a source for medical journals or ask a professional you trust to help you wade through overwhelming areas of research.

4. Don’t settle. If you don’t like your doctor, find another one. There’s absolutely no reason to see someone who you feel doesn’t treat you with respect.

If you find that your doctor doesn’t take the time to listen to you, much less answer your questions, then that’s a red-flag that you need to look elsewhere.

5. You are worth answers. I remember when I went to a doctor who wanted to put me through chemical menopause because he thought that I had endometriosis, even though it wasn’t apparent during the exploratory surgery. (I didn’t.)

Thankfully, when I explained to my amazing family doctor that she would have to be the one to administer the frequent shots, she refused.

She said that she knew I was tired of seeing specialists (he was something like my fifith or sixth) who couldn’t figure out where my pain was coming from, but she knew that this wasn’t my answer.

She sent me to another person, where I wound up being properly diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, and this Ob gyn who treated me said that he certainly didn’t suggest chemical menopause, unless I wanted a dry vagina and hot flashes, that is. I declined.

Again, don’t give up on yourself.

So you’ve been to two doctors who either you don’t like or you feel haven’t helped you? Go to a third.

6. Yet be respectful. My aunt always said that you attract more bees with honey than you do with shit—and this is absolutely true.

It’s important to listen to and consider options, and to learn how to stand up for yourself while also respecting the people around you. On top of this, you’ll find that others are more likely to step in and help you out if you maintain an appropriateness in your own attitude.

The medical world can be a frustrating place to inhabit.

It can feel isolating and lonely and scary.

When you or someone you dearly love isn’t well, the last thing you want to do is fight insurance companies or deal with new-patient paperwork yet again—but sometimes you have to.

You have to because you are your own best advocate, in all areas of life.

I remember my daughter’s pediatrician telling me that no one knows her better than I do, and it’s important to keep this in mind when dealing with an asshole, know-it-all physician—because doctors are people too. In other words, they’re not all perfect and sometimes the shoe doesn’t fit.

I wrote this because I want you to remember to believe in yourself; to believe that you’re worth questions, thoughtful answers and even interrogations if that’s what it comes down to.

Believe in your instinct when something doesn’t feel right and believe in your own intelligence to ask for more than you’re given if it doesn’t seem like enough.

Believe that you’re worth exploration and attention–-because you are.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”

~ Winston Churchill

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Ed: Sara Crolick


About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


4 Responses to “How to be Your Own Medical Advocate.”

  1. kimberlylowriter says:

    Love this! So true!

  2. Ellen says:

    23 years ago a neurologist diagnosed me with MS and wanted me to undergo IV steroids as treatment. I refused his treatment and my husband and I kept researching my symptoms. We discovered that I did not have MS but rather Combined System Disease, a B12 deficiency syndrome with neurological symptoms preceding the hematological signs. Our family doc concurred and B12 injections on a regular basis keep me symptom free. If we had listened to the neurologist I would have gone through the hell of IV steroid therapy for no reason and could have died before my true problem was diagnosed. Doctors are only human and just practicing so, as you so wisely have written "Believe in your instinct when something doesn’t feel right and believe in your own intelligence to ask for more than you’re given if it doesn’t seem like enough."

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience, Ellen. I've actually heard of this B12 deficiency and know how important it is to be properly diagnosed so that you can, in fact, get the proper treatment. I'm glad that you also had the support of someone like your husband, because going through this type of struggle is difficult enough, much less alone.
    Again, thank you for your sharing your story.