How To Be More Assertive At The Doctor’s Office

Image Source: / photostock

Image Source: / photostock

How To Be More Assertive At The Doctor’s Office

One of the things I hear all too often from my breast cancer coaching clients is that they are tired of being bullied by their doctor when they want to investigate more natural ways to heal breast cancer, and many ask me for help on how to be more assertive at the doctor’s office.

Really – this is a big deal.  People who are going through breast cancer are having to make lots of decisions about their treatments in a pretty short period of time.

The decisions that need to be made are scary, and if the wrong decision gets made, it could be quite detrimental to one’s health and, ultimately, life.  So that part is hard enough.

Many of the people with whom I am working are wanting to go a more natural route.  Some may choose to have chemotherapy and/or radiation and use a blend of natural therapies, some don’t want the toxicity of chemotherapy or radiation at all, and some will depart from their oncologist’s recommendations when it comes to the subject of hormone blocking medications.

Dealing With The Dinosaurs

Regardless of a person’s choices, it has been my observation that the more forward-thinking doctors are okay with their patient’s choices and support their decisions.

Every once in awhile, however, we run across a dinosaur.  A doctor who absolutely refuses to see their patient’s argument and gets mad at them for having an opinion that is contrary to what is being recommended.

The dinosaurs are apt to say all kinds of negative things like, “Well you will be seeing me again in a few months when the cancer comes back.” or “You will be sorry that you made that decision.”

The most heinous thing I was ever told by one of my ladies is that her doctor told her “You are a dead woman walking.”  Can you believe that?  It  still makes me madder than a wet hen.

So how to deal with the dinosaurs?  

It can be a scary thing, going against your doctor’s orders.  I know a few women who just about have an anxiety attack when they know they are going to have “that conversation” with their doctor.

Assertiveness is a skill that takes practice.  It may be much easier for you to swallow your feelings and just crumble, but how will that make you feel later?  You won’t be happy about it, I promise.

Please note – I am not advocating that you go against your doctor’s orders or recommendations.  But if you have decided upon a different course of action and are dealing with a dinosaur, here are my best tips.

7 Tips On How To Be More Assertive At The Doctor’s Office

1.  Most importantly, know that this is YOUR body.  You get to say what happens to it.  If you are not happy about your doctor’s treatment plan, and you have done the research and decided upon a different course of action, that is your prerogative.  You have every right to do this.

2.  Don’t go in unprepared.  Think about what you want to say.  Print off the research that you have been reading that leads you to believe your course of action is the better one.  Prepare the words you want to use ahead of time.  Visualize the meeting beforehand, with you speaking your truth and your doctor listening, and it will go much more smoothly.

3.  Realize that by saying NO, you are not hurting the doctor’s feelings.  In an hour or two, he/she will most likely forget all about this conversation.

4.  Take a friend or spouse with you – someone who will absolutely have your back and support you if you start to crumble.  Another set of ears to listen and take notes is always a good idea.

5.  While you are in the doctor’s office waiting to be seen, do a little deep breathing.  This helps ease your worries and anxiety.  Breathe in what you need – peace, serenity, strength, resolve – and breathe out feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear.

6.  Be specific, calm, honest, clear in your words, and be respectful.  Make eye contact and use confident body language.  The doctor will see that you mean what you say.

7.  Keep emotions in check.  This is not a time to cry or shout or lose your temper.  Keep your voice even and firm.

At the end of the day, realize that your doctor works for you, not the other way around.  You are not there to please them.  They are there to help you get better and you get to have a say in what happens to you.  By all means, listen to their arguments for a particular type of therapy, but if it doesn’t make sense to you, you have every right to seek out another doctor’s opinion and you have every right to say no.

I wish you much healing on your journey.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Questions To Ask Your Oncologist

Photo courtesy of / stockimages

Photo courtesy of / stockimages

Questions To Ask Your Oncologist

Once you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you will meet with several cancer specialists, usually a plastic or oncological surgeon and an oncologist, depending upon your particular diagnosis.

One vitally important thing for you to keep in mind when you meet with your doctors after the biopsy is DON’T GO ALONE!  Not because you have anything to fear from them, but because you will – at some point – feel overwhelmed and confused by all of the new words and information coming at you.  A feeling of disbelief is common, of being overwhelmed, and having a list of questions to ask can be very empowering and helpful, especially when faced with an expert who is telling us what we need to do to get on the road to healing from breast cancer.

My Best Advice – 3 Things To Do When Going To See Your Oncologist For The First Time:

  1. Take someone with you – a trusted relative or close friend.  I can’t stress the importance of this enough.  You might think you’ve got it all under control, but I guarantee you at some point you are going to be overwhelmed with information and stop listening.  Another set of ears to take notes and/or ask questions is invaluable.
  2. Take something to record the conversation with so you can replay it later.  You will never be able to take sufficient notes and words/phrases are often forgotten or remembered poorly.
  3. Take the following list of questions to your appointment with your oncologist.

Here Are The Questions You Will Want To Ask:

  1. What type of breast cancer do I have?
  2. Where exactly is it located? (if you don’t know)
  3. Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me? (make sure you get a copy of your report as you may need it again)
  4. What is the stage of my cancer?  What does this mean?
  5. Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes or anywhere else?
  6. Is the tumor fueled by hormones?
  7. What is my prognosis (chance of recovery)?
  8. How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  9. What are my treatment options (or do I require further tests)?
  10. Why are you recommending this therapy for me – what exactly will it do for me?
  11. What are the chances that my cancer could come back after this treatment?
  12. Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment, or is this treatment done in an outpatient clinic?
  13. What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan? Do I need to be treated right away?
  14. What are the short term side effects of this therapy?
  15. What long-term side effects have been typical with this cancer treatment? (Oh, how I wish I had asked that question!)
  16. How can I best manage any side effects – any activities or foods that will help?
  17. What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, rest) do you recommend I make to stay as healthy as possible before, during, and after treatment?  (If they don’t have any suggestions, please use my website as a resource because all of these things DO matter.)
  18. What are the risks of the therapy you are recommending?
  19. Are there other ways to treat my breast cancer?
  20. Are there any clinical trials (research studies involving people) open to me? (if you want that)
  21. If chemotherapy is recommended: Where will I need to go for my infusions?
  22. How long will the treatment last?
  23. Will I need to worry about premature menopause and infertility?
  24. What about lymphedema?
  25. Are there any vitamins or supplements I should avoid taking during my treatments and, if so, why?
  26. Whom should I call with questions or concerns during non-business hours? (because they WILL come up!)
  27. If I’m worried about managing the costs related to my treatments, is there anyone who can help me with these concerns?
  28. Are you aware of any support groups in this area that I could join?  (if you want that)
  29. Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel depressed, overwhelmed or distressed?
  30. How will I know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?

If your treatment involves surgery, see my article Prepare for Breast Surgery: 14 Questions To Ask Your Surgeon.

Don’t be scared.  You can do this.  Breathe.  Talk to a friend.  Punch a pillow.  Email me if you need someone to talk to (just hit the Contact button above).

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.


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