Very early on in my battle with cancer a dear friend gave me some very wise advice. “Please don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself,” she told me. “You will have to wait at times but there is also a place for you to pick up the phone and ask for results, action, a timeline.”
It’s called being proactive.
Being proactive falls somewhere between pushy and patient. Pushy is defined as “excessively or unpleasantly self-assertive or ambitious.” Though waiting for appointments, waiting for test results, waiting to find out what’s going to happen next is is a huge part of this journey, I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t want to be excessively or unpleasantly assertive. I don’t want to phone too often and make a complete nuisance of myself but I’m not willing to be overly patient either. Patient means “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” No thanks! I’m definitely not willing to accept or tolerate unnecessary delays and I do become anxious!
Being proactive is all about balance and it has been especially important since my second cancer was diagnosed. I’m not willing to simply sit back and assume that all the experts involved in caring for my two entirely different cancers are talking to one another and coordinating their efforts. I’m being proactive and advocating for myself. I can’t control the situation or cause things to happen but I can ask questions and I can ensure that everyone involved in one part of my care knows what’s going on in the other part.
Regardless of how proactive I am, waiting is still a big part of the process, but lately things seem to have sped up. Surgery was just three weeks ago. I’ve already been back to the city for two appointments since then and I have another one tomorrow. Due to the size of the tumour that was removed and the fact some cancer cells may have been left behind, the next step is 30 radiation treatments over a six week period. At tomorrow’s appointment, molds will be taken to make a mask that will ensure that my head remains in the correct position and the radiation targets exactly the right spot each time. Because radiation to the jaw can cause dental problems and I need to learn how to prevent that from happening, I also have a dental consultation booked for the end of next week. Radiation will begin soon after that.
In the meantime, treatment of my neuroendocrine tumours is on hold, but a CT scan on June 12 will tell us whether or not there has been any change and I will be proactively advocating for resumption of a regular treatment schedule as soon as radiation is finished.
Being proactive doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s getting easier all the time and it gives me some sense of control in a situation that is largely out of my hands.
In what areas of life have you had to be proactive?