Terminal illness is highly personal.
Why? One of the initial lessons that I have learned as an advocate with Compassion & Choices, is that for the terminally ill, every individual’s disease is different. What this means is that the treatment plan in some form or the other varies uniquely individually.
Imagine from the very beginning when a person is just initially diagnosed, making a decision to be proactive in discussions can go a long way in carrying out your dignity and ensuring the absolute best outcome.
Dignity, by definition, is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake and to be treated ethically. It is of significance in morality, ethics, law and politics as an extension of the Enlightenment-era concepts of inherent, inalienable rights.
Think about it.
Within the journey of a terminally ill patient, you will expect to meet with many doctors.
Each of these doctors is a specialist, such as a surgeon, oncologists, internists, and so on. Every one of these physicians is responsible for one aspect of your care. The information brought in to any individual can be quite overwhelming, a long-term process.
The journey for the individual with a terminal illness is very challenging, and it isn’t easy.
Having someone you can trust, such as a loved one or close friend with you, during such times can aid you when you may not be feeling as confident or vulnerable when sick. Such a person can make note of what your doctor says and play a part in asking questions during visits.
As an advocate, it is part of my work to help others in finding their dignity and their voice, however, I have strong empathy for those initial times, when one is first diagnosed and the entire process. Many times, people feel at lost for words, fall in denial, and experience a range of emotions within.
At the very first doctor appointment, it’s not surprising to feel nervous.
Any doctor visit can be nerve-racking, but when you have a terminal disease, the highs and lows can easily get the best of you. Logically, a doctor appointment only lasts a few minutes, so be prepared with the right questions and it will help bring clarity to learning more about your disease and what comes next. I always suggest to those going through this process to keep and bring a journal or notes with you. That way you can ask the questions you would like answered and feel more in control.
We come from generations where, at times, individuals have been taught not to communicate or share their health problems or concerns with their doctor. However, in these times, communication is so crucial and helpful. With a critical diagnosis that is life-threatening asking as many questions as you want and gaining second or third opinions is highly encouraged. At any doctor’s appointment, every patient wants to be treated fairly, respectfully and with dignity.
If you or a loved one is going through treatment for a terminal illness, speak up to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions that you need, get opinions, and learn of your health.
In today’s society and culture, compassion, dignity, and choice can be difficult for a patient to embrace with ease. As a patient, reaching your most comfortable level with your doctors is one of the most important aspects to ensuring success in surviving and treatment of your illness. It’s okay in the beginning if you are feeling uncomfortable, nervous, shy and more.
Work to find your voice, and with that strength, comes dignity.
Having a choice is a powerful aspect of healthcare. Once your voice is found, you will be able to speak up for your health, ask the best questions, be active in your own treatments and care, and feel empowered throughout it all.