Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Don't Go to the Doctor Alone
You have heard the advice but maybe, like me, you thought, “Well really, I already know what they are going to say.” Or, “I’m such a private person I don’t want someone there for such an intimate conversation. Or maybe you are the caregiver or the patient’s good friend and you thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to intrude”, or “Isn’t her son or daughter the best person to be there?”
But this week I got a big reminder of why we want someone with us at the doctor for any big news in CancerLand. Maybe it’s the start of he process—the diagnosis meeting or the one where they will lay out the treatment plan. OR maybe later in the process and it’s time for an update. I beg you: Take someone with you. OR offer to accompany your friend.
On Tuesday I went with my friend to what we knew would be an important appointment. There had been difficulties and then a lot of tests. Something was up. Now to get the news. She has a daughter and a son and while they will need to be in future meetings, she was going to hear news that would upset them as well.
Here’s why it’s important to have an advocate with you. My friend is very smart, super competent, manages a pretty complex life on her own, but as soon as she heard the word “cancer” from the doctor it was as if her hearing and processing decreased by at least 70 %. That’s what happens. And it wasn’t completely new news. We both knew it was going to be some kind of cancer. We had talked about it ahead of time. She had made a list of things to ask, and options, family info etc. She was very smart about the whole process. But then, sitting next to her, I could feel her mental processing drain away. But because I was there, and I had her list I was able to say, “Now Anna would like to ask you this…and this…and
And I was her scribe. I wrote it all down: the doc’s answers and the instructions he gave—the next appointments and the order in which to schedule them and when to come back and which lab for the blood work.
If you were in the room you would have thought she was getting all of it. Anna is super poised and well-spoken. And she didn’t cry or shrink. But by the time we walked to the checkout area, all of the details were gone from her head—but I had written them down—for the scheduler and for Anna and her family later.
So if you are the patient—take a friend or advocate, and if you are a good friend, insist on going along to take notes—be the research assistant or CancerLand amanuensis. It’s a fabulous service and much better than making lasagna.