Are You A Good Advocate for Yourself?

February 11th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I know we see a lot of different medical professionals when we live with diabetes (and we aren’t alone with that!)… and I know sometimes we feel that “well, they went to medical school; they must know what they’re doing”…

… and while this may largely be true, you still need to be your own advocate when it comes to the care you receive.

If you don’t know precisely WHY your doctor changes something or tells you to start something new, don’t leave.  Interrupt her and make sure you clearly know why she is changing what she is changing.

If you don’t know precisely WHAT information your doctor considers important on that lab result, or what a certain procedure is, ask him.  He knows the answer and he should be able to explain it to you in a way you can understand.

It’s your body, you know.  No one else can possibly care about your body in the same way as you care.  (I believe this is also true with parents: a parent caring about a child is probably more intense than a child caring about her or himself, but I think there is a difference between the two.  Just a difference, is all.)

In my recent experience, I had to advocate for myself in a new way.  It did feel a bit odd, but I’m glad I handled it the way I did.

Once my doctor came into the room, I remembered that I’m now treating my doctors as though they are my professional consultants instead of grade school teachers.  I can’t get in trouble and they can’t make me stay after class.  I can, however, learn from them and their experiences to better my own life.

What a difference.

At my last visit, I asked my doctor to refer me to a dietician.  I haven’t seen one in a number of years and my nutritional needs have changed as I run farther distances more often.  Although I am a Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach, I still think it’s a good idea for me to meet with a professional and re-group.

I asked specifically for someone who knows type one diabetes inside and out and who knows marathon training very well.  Of course, that person had transferred into a different department and no longer sees patients, so I felt on my own.

Nevertheless, she sent me to the nutrition department.  They called to schedule an appointment for me, and I asked the scheduler the same questions: how many patients does the particular RD see with type one?  How many marathoners?

She had me speak with the dietician, and I was very straightforward with her.  I appreciated that she would take time to speak with me prior to an appointment, and told her that living with type one diabetes for over twenty years and being a personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management coach, I know nutrition.  However, just like a hairdresser probably doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cut her own hair, I want again a knowledgeable and experienced expert on my side.

That dietician went out and searched her dietician friends for someone who met my criteria.  Now, I haven’t met with anyone yet, but I know I’m going to reach someone who will be a benefit to me, my health, and my performance as an athlete.

When acting as my own advocate, I feel empowered to make healthy choices and healthy changes so that I can keep going as long as I want. 

So can you!

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