Forge is proud to work with UAB’s Department of Occupational Therapy to offer resources for better recovery and improved quality of life after a cancer diagnosis. Below is a summary of a project they have done for Forge on the topic of Advocacy.
Advocacy and Breast Cancer
Advocacy is promoting the interests of yourself or others. In healthcare, advocacy is important to ensure that you and your loved one’s needs are being met and that your voices are being heard. Oftentimes people think of advocacy as doing something for someone else, but it is important to remember that you
can be an advocate for yourself as well. In either case, you are ensuring that your rights, preferences, and wishes are taken into consideration during your or your loved one’s cancer journey.
To make it simple, here is an advocacy guide with steps for how to advocate for yourself or your loved one:
- Identify the Issue
Explicitly identify and be able to articulate the issue(s) that are causing problems for you or your loved one.
- Identify Key Players
This could be someone else, a medical professional, or even yourself.
- Gather Relevant Information
Organize your information and documents that will help you be prepared to discuss the concerns or issues you are experiencing.
- Address the Issue
This means putting your plan into action by discussing with the key players.
- Review and Revise Your Plan
Determine if addressing the issue was effective and whether you need to try again or make adjustments for the next time an issue arises.
What does it look like to advocate for someone you love who has cancer?
When someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, it can be overwhelming for both of you. It is important to listen to and support your loved one on this journey. Here is a real-life example using the advocacy guide:
- Step One: Identify the issue. Your loved one is in the hospital and didn’t receive pain medication on time.
- Step Two: Identify the key players. This includes your loved one and the hospital staff.
- Step Three: Gather pertinent information. In this case, this could be the time the medication was supposed to be given and the time your loved one is set to receive the next dose.
- Step Four: Address the issue. Talk to your loved one’s nurse about the missed medication.
- Step Five: Review and Revise. This is a time of self-reflection after addressing the missed pain medication issue. What could you have done better? How was your body language? Should you have used a different tone? This will help you determine what you can do better next time.
An important way for you to support and advocate for your loved one is helping stay organized with medical records, bills, and medication information. These are all parts of a cancer diagnosis that need to remain organized and can become overwhelming for your loved one. Another way to advocate for your loved one is by attending appointments with them, asking questions and representing your loved one’s feelings and needs to the medical team, especially if your loved one is having a hard time communicating their thoughts.
What does it look like to advocate for yourself in a cancer journey?
With any medical diagnosis, you receive a lot of information from all around you. A way that you can advocate for yourself and your rights is to know your options and be prepared to speak to your loved ones and doctors about things that are important to you. For example, if you are thinking through treatment options and do not feel content or at peace with a decision, then it is time to advocate for yourself.
- Step One: Identify the issue. You are concerned about your treatment plan.
- Step Two: Identify the key players. This includes your medical team and yourself.
- Step Three: Gather pertinent information. In this case, you could research different treatment options and develop a list of questions you’d like to discuss with your doctor.
- Step Four: Address the issue. Set up a time to ask your doctor questions and communicate your concerns and feelings with your medical team.
- Step Five: Review and Revise. If you still don’t feel at peace with the treatment decision, look into other ways to express your feelings and concerns. Feeling confident in your treatment plan and your medical team are important.
While advocacy can be challenging at times, it is important to ensure that your voice is heard on the issues that are important to you. At the end of the day you are your best advocate!
Here are some resources that Forge has that may help you gather information or address issues that you may have regarding advocating for yourself or a loved one after a cancer diagnosis:
If you need someone who has been there before to help you advocate for yourself and provide support, contact Jinida Holt, Forge’s Volunteer & Support Coordinator at (205) 990-5368 or j[email protected].