Our story started with my daughter. She was sick ALL. THE. TIME.
From constant ear infections as a toddler to picking up every germ at pre-school. She was on more antibiotics than I can remember before she was five. Adding to that, her eating habits were less than stellar. She was extremely picky and most days we ended up shoving plain buttered pasta in her mouth in front of the TV just to avoid the dreaded dinnertime struggle.
Every check-up at the pediatrician confirmed she was mentally on target, and physically she was staying consistent along her growth curve, even though those numbers were at a very low percentile.
“She’s perfect,” they would say, “see you next year”…..
In time, her stats halted and by the time she was six, it was finally suggested that we come in for visits every six months to check her height and weight. At this point, I knew something wasn’t right and my “mom instincts” kicked in. I started researching….what could be causing short stature? Low weight gain? A weakened immune system? My research brought me to food allergies, and within a few weeks of that, a conversation at a party led me to Celiac Disease. I immediately made an appointment and asked to get her tested.
Results came back and her numbers were off the charts.
To this day, the pediatrician welcomes her at every single appointment and says, “Cassidy, you were not by the books”.
I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people put a lot of trust in their doctor. We admire their level of education, and they’ve gone through extensive training to earn that title. But mistakes happen. And they happen a lot more often than you probably think. According to a study released by Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Fast forward seven years and I was placed in another much more unexpected medical situation. In November, my mom was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer. She underwent a biopsy to confirm diagnosis, and never felt the same afterwards. The next day, she went home from the hospital with an oxygen tank and continued having chest discomfort that the medical team reassured her would go away within a week.
A week went by and her symptoms were progressively getting worse. Her shortness of breath escalated to the point where she could barely exert any energy. She went to her family physician who immediately sent her for an X-RAY. The result was fluid build up around her heart and lungs so she was sent directly to the emergency room.
Within hours, my mom was being hounded by oncologists recommending the start of emergent chemotherapy because, according to their experience with this type of cancer, her symptoms were the cause of the cancer progressing.
Her instincts told them no.
Again, I started researching….our family knew that it wasn’t until after the biopsy that she started having these symptoms, and we had a gut feeling it was a bacterial infection from the procedure. We were stern with the oncologists and medical staff that we did not want any chemotherapy started until a pathology report confirmed malignancy.
The next day, we received the report that it was indeed a bacterial infection(including 3 separate bacteria that turned into a septic infection) and there was no spread of the cancer.
The decision to start chemotherapy would have killed her.
Throughout my mom’s stay in the ICU, the doctors allowed us to bring in nutritional support to aid in her recovery from the infection. We brought vitamins, homemade bone broth, fresh turmeric & ginger tea, among others. This surprises a lot of people I tell…Do you know why they allowed us to do this?
Because we asked.
Now don’t get me wrong, of course you should listen to the guidance from your doctors, but you need to SPEAK UP.
Following a standard protocol is not always the answer!
Get involved with the decision making, think outside the box, communicate and work together as a team to come up with a treatment plan that best fits YOUR personal situation.
Implement These 7 Tips & Empower Yourself to Take Back Control of Your Life:
Get a journal and have a list of questions written down before you go to your appointment. There are no bad questions when it comes to your health and don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you can’t ask questions. Communicate your concerns and write down the responses.
If possible, bring someone with you.
Do Your Research
Be informed about your illness. Use the internet wisely and use reputable websites to investigate symptoms and treatment.
Get a Second Opinion….and third and fourth if you want to, especially if you have a serious condition. Don’t worry about offending a doctor’s ego- trust your gut. Having a consensus among experts will give you peace of mind or shed new light onto your situation.
Seek a functional or integrative practitioner if you aren’t getting answers from conventional medicine, or if you would like a more holistic approach to your healthcare.
Learn Your Labs and Know Your Meds
Ask the doctor to explain your lab results and what they mean.
Request copies of all labs and scans related to your diagnosis. Have the doctor write down or print the names of any medications they are prescribing.
Don’t just assume the medications and dosages you are being prescribed are necessary and safe. Ask about side effects or any contraindications.
Listen to Your Body
You are the expert on what’s going on inside your body.
We know our bodies better than anyone else and sometimes we have to trust ourselves, even if the doctors have doubts.
Speak up if you are experiencing something that is not typical for YOU.
Go at Your Own Pace
While many things in a medical setting can be time sensitive, there might not be any harm in waiting a day or two to make a decision. Ask for extra time to allow you to think through your options and ask others for opinions.
If you’re feeling pressured, you should probably look for another doctor.
Didn’t hear from your doctor? Call THEM to follow up, or find another way to communicate such as an email address or go online into your patient portal.
Connect With Others
Join a support group- either locally or online. The internet has made it very easy to connect with like-minded people with similar health conditions.
Join Facebook groups, health forums or follow people on Instagram. You can then ask your doctor for feedback on what you’ve learned.
Remember, YOU are part of the team that makes decisions toward improving your health. YOU are the team leader and ultimately any decisions are yours to make.
Be your own advocate.