Patients With Cancer Are The CEO of Their Care Team

A cancer survivor recalls some experiences he had along his journey and reminds others to be the CEO of their care team, as it’s their life on the line.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout the cancer journey is to be your own health advocate.

When you’re first diagnosed, deferring entirely to your experienced, highly competent doctors is extremely appealing; you basically just want someone else to have all the answers, make the big decisions and do whatever it takes to make the whole nightmare go away. And in some cases, it is that easy. But many times, you’ll need to take a more active role.

I learned this the hard way when first diagnosed in 2016. On just the first meeting, an aggressive oncologist recommended rushing into chemo before taking any reproductive precautions — my wife, Kori, and I were actually told the treatment wouldn’t affect anything, which was 100% false — and I was so shook with fear that I probably would’ve went right ahead if Kori hadn’t pumped the brakes to get a second opinion.

That was my first wake up call. Here are other takeaways from over the years:

Doctors are only human

As much as a patient wants to believe the world revolves around their treatment, I’ve learned that’s definitely not the case. I’ve had to correct doctors and nurses or remind them about something they’ve forgotten or overlooked plenty of times. On both the conventional and holistic side. Speak up or ask your caretaker to get involved if something doesn’t feel right.

Learn the different angles

Between surgeons, oncologists, functional medicine doctors and different holistic professionals, everyone has unique insight, tips and tricks you can pick up along the way. Always be learning, adding new tools to your healing regimen, and working to improve your situation.

Grow thick skin and get used to uncertainty

My healing journey has crossed paths with both conventional and holistic medicine, two sides which don’t always see eye to eye. Many holistic supplements and treatments lack research backed studies and not everyone is comfortable discussing them as legit resources. What’s worked out best for me has been to tune out the noise, do my own research and then listen to my gut (while working out a plan under the supervision of a functional medicine doctor). As for managing the uncertainty, that’s one of the hardest parts about life as a cancer fighter and there are no easy fixes. The best I can offer is to keep reminding yourself, “one day at a time.”

Weigh quality of life

After a year of intense chemo didn’t get the job done, part of what attracted me to experiment with the holistic world was the idea of working with clean, natural ingredients rather than foreign chemicals and the painful side effects packaged in with clinical trials I was offered. That’s a personal decision. But remember to weigh quality of life right up there with a treatment’s chance of success.

Every situation is different

There are less options depending on the condition’s severity. For that reason, it would be unfair to preach hard and set rules on the “proper” way to tackle fighting cancer. Remember that whenever people like me are offering you advice. Trust your gut.

The main thing I’m trying to remind you is that it’s your life on the line, so make sure to own that. Medical professionals, health influencers — whoever you turn to for guidance, try to think of them more as key consultants whereas you’re the CEO, fully responsible for the end results. And that’s not always easy; I’ve been in the room with some pushy and impatient doctors — it’s intimidating being pressured into decisions. but if you find yourself in this spot, remember to take a deep breath, step away if you must, and after collecting your thoughts, make sure you’re both informed and comfortable with whatever choices are made. It’ll be worth it in the end.

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