Navigating medical leave and insurance forms can be nerve-wracking and feel high stakes for some, writes a cancer survivor. Here, he offers advice on how to manage that stress.
Navigating through insurance and medical leave forms has always felt nerve-wracking and high stakes for me. From the moment those bulky packets arrive in the mail, my stress levels fly off the charts. I’ve been afraid that if I fill out anything wrong, I’ll get denied or punished in some way — emotions that aren’t quite rational but feel valid to me, nonetheless. And maybe you’re a cancer fighter struggling with the same issue.
Try to remember that your stress levels are usually highest right after you receive the forms. Feel free to put them aside and let your nervous system regroup. Give it a few days or even weeks before you worry about dealing with filling them out. You may just need a little time to process that something new has been added to your plate.
What I eventually started doing was dedicating an hour or two outside my apartment to go through everything. Leaving behind all the stressful cancer triggers in my home just seems to help lower my anxiety in general. I’ll also ask my wife to sit with me to make sure I’m not missing the mark or misrepresenting my situation. It’s always good to have a few friends or family members in mind that you can turn to if needed as well.
When I was applying for social security disability, the process felt even more intimidating and between treatment, scans and surgeries, I was already running on fumes. I invited a close friend who’s a lawyer to come out for the day. I bought him lunch, we got to catch up and hung out for the day — which was great in itself — and he was by my side guiding me along each question. It took a lot of the pressure off and reminded me to ask when I need support. Most people want to be there for you as long as you make it clear how they can contribute.
Another lesson I’ve learned is the importance of having the right doctor as an advocate — someone you can fall back on when you need guidance. Don’t just settle if your primary care doctor or oncologist doesn’t seem in tune with your situation or if it feels like they’re simply running through the motions. You can always maintain relationships with multiple health specialists and then figure out for yourself who’s better to turn to for what. Ask around, do some research and make sure to find that ally. It’s worth it.
Stress along the cancer journey arrives in many forms. Remember to take a breath, leave yourself time to process unexpected twists, and then try to break down whatever’s come your way into manageable parts.
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