I’m often asked about my biggest piece of advice for someone who’s just been recently diagnosed with cancer/chronic illness.
If I could give only one bit of advice to that person-- it would probably be:
BE THE CEO OF YOUR OWN HEALTH.
And here’s how:
1. PRAY. Few things can make us feel as helpless as a life threatening diagnosis. I distinctly remember having the realization that our diagnosis was much bigger than me. I could not out-think, out-work, out-hustle, or out-smart this problem. Even if I worked my ass off from sun-up to sun-down, there were no guarantees. And, the thought of what we would have to endure over the coming months was completely overwhelming. And so I prayed.
Although I had always been a prayerful person, these pleads felt somehow different. I began to pray (hands and knees), in a new way. In a way that felt totally transparent, egoless, and completely connected to spirit. In a way that seemed to involve my whole heart. Prayer is powerful and it gave me a sense of connection when I needed it most.
2. INTERVIEW FOR THE RIGHT DOCTOR (DOCTORS). Choosing the right doctor (or “dream team” of doctors) is critically important--you need to be prepared to conduct a thorough interview. Try to remember that the guy (or gal) in the white coat works for you.
I knew that we needed a doctor with impressive credentials. But I also knew that we would be spending a great deal of time with this person and entrusting them with our most sacred possession (our child). I needed to "feel" a soulful connection in order to trust and feel secure. For a list of our favorite docs click here.
A few questions to ask:
Do you understand integrative medicine & do you work with other patients who utilize an integrative approach?
What is your thoughts/experience regarding a holistic approach to wellness? Effective?
Are you willing to collaborate with other doctors on my team (naturopaths, integrative, conventional)?
Do you believe that alternative strategies can increase efficacy of conventional treatment and decrease side effects?
If interviewing a natural doctor, ask for specific strategies used.
What do you think caused my disease?
Do you think my diet, toxic burden, stress, etc. had anything to do with it?
Was it genetic? Was it bad luck?
What treatment/medications do you recommend? What are the short/long term side-effects?
Are you married? Do you have children?
What if it was your child/spouse, would you give them this treatment?
What other treatment options are available besides what we've discussed?
What do you recommend I eat? Is a plant-based diet/juicing helpful?
How many patients do you treat per year (with my condition)?
How many patients have you permanently cured of my disease?
Do you know anyone with my condition that healed naturally?
Do you have a few patients that I could talk to?
If I choose you for my wellness team, will I be able to call you if I have issues/questions after hours? Will I get to talk to you or will it be a nurse.
If I decide not to do treatment, will you support me with periodic blood tests and scans?
Do you work with any alternative practitioners, integrative/functional doctors, etc. (names/locations)
Ask about specific innovative treatments that you have researched—leave the doctor a list for review.
3. TRY TO IGNORE THE TICKING CLOCK (at least for a week or two). After a diagnosis, there is often the frantic sense that time is ticking. But the truth is, in most cases there is adequate time to choose the right doctor and weigh treatment options (especially when you consider that most tumors have been brewing for 8-10 years before they are discovered as a lump or bump). As long as there is no medical danger (so discuss with your doctor), taking a couple weeks to construct a wellness plan and to choose the right doctors is critically important.
4. DO YOUR RESEARCH & BE PREPARED FOR EVERY APPOINTMENT. Always have a list of questions to ask (this is necessary when choosing a doctor and for every appointment thereafter). Ask to record sessions (all you need is a small tape recorder or a cell phone with enough memory).
You can access most every doctor’s bio online, which generally will tell about their education, fellowships, board certifications, etc. Spend time networking with organizations, doctors, and other patients. Research, take notes, and ask questions about treatments, medications, latest innovations, etc.
5. DON’T LET THE WHITE COATS PUSH YOU AROUND. Too often, we show up at the hospital and we’re shuffled through the standard assembly-line routine—weight, blood pressure, temperature. We are asked to repeat our story like a million times to the scheduler, receptionist, nurse, etc. Next we’re told to get naked (put on the dreaded gown) and a doctor (whom we’ve never met before) will be in shortly to poke & prod us. Sounds totally awesome-right? During this process, there are many unspoken rules that dictate the doctor (with all his education & white coat) is in charge, while we are naked & afraid.
Always be respectful, but set clear boundaries and let everyone know that you are in charge of your wellness journey. It’s easy to get sucked into a conventional mindset (i.e. “the doctors always right”). So, remind yourself often that YOU are in the driver’s seat; the doctor works for you!
A few things that we did that weren’t exactly the norm:
We NEVER wore a gown (those are for sick people!)
We played “catch” with a baseball on the hospital deck (IV in tow), while the nurses took pictures with their phones from the hospital window (did I mention we loved our medical team)!
I always cleaned the hospital room myself, before I let my son enter. The nurses were used to this and generally had the cleaning supplies waiting for me (our nurses were totally awesome!)
6. BE TRANSPARENT. Let the doctors know that you are interviewing for the right doctors to be on your wellness team. Let your doctors know your philosophy of treatment and about the other doctors you are working with (in fact, provide them a comprehensive list).
I always make sure that my doctors understand:
We are in the driver’s seat (The CEO of our health), led by God & a team of amazing doctors.
Our wellness plan is holistic/integrative in nature with a fundamental belief that we have been blessed with an amazing body that has an innate ability to self-heal when given what it needs.
I want all my doctors to work together as an integrative team.
We want exposed to “Positive only”- because “What we think, we become”. We are not interested in yucky words (i.e. chemo) or hearing any grim statistics, but rather we want to surround ourselves with an educated upbeat team that believes all things are possible.
7. HAVE A DEPUTY CEO. Having someone that understands your philosophy and is committed to being by your side every step of the way is critical (a spouse, family member, friend, etc.). It’s often overwhelming trying to navigate a diagnosis on your own, so having proper support is essential.
Tap into your strengths and the strengths of your support network. For example, I was the CEO of a company—so I had the skills to organize and run this wellness project like I had run my business. Meanwhile, my husband is playful and was great at promoting “fun” (and let’s face it, fun is often the best medicine!). And my father is very academic, so I knew he would be the one to research the latest innovations, doctors, etc. Inventory your resources and strategically delegate duties.
8. FOLLOW THE SOULFUL TUGS
As the CEO of your health, you must understand your limitations and the need for Devine guidance. You’ve said your prayers, now it’s time to get still and connect with spirit. When you “feel” that soulful tug—you know you’re in the right place.
9. BE OKAY SAYING "YOUR FIRED"
I found that most all doctors are well-intentioned, but they will not all be the right fit for you (And that's okay). When it doesn’t “feel” right, is uncomfortable, or they don’t buy-in to your philosophy—consider it a “gift” that you are being made aware of this. Move on, until you find a doctor that is more aligned. For me, having a “dream team” of doctors that I loved & trusted was one of the most important things to me. I needed to know that they were educated and qualified, but also that they were loving souls, who understood our plight. We are so grateful for our team of doctors!