The Patient's Support System: Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up

Sunday, July 17, 2016
As mentioned in the previous blog, you are the number one person on your healthcare team. Now we talk about family, friends, and the community, which play just as an important role in the support you receive.
When I was going through my treatments, which were very aggressive and required me to be in the hospital for 2 nights and 3 days, my family and friends were integral in helping in a number of ways.
First my family I don’t think throughout the entire year of my treatment including surgery and radiation that one member of my family didn’t fly in to spend 2 weeks at a time with me. It is very important that you have the support of your family. That support meant doing the shopping, cleaning, laundry, and most of all just to be there for company. My family; mom, dad, Jenny, Ben, and Chris spent countless hours, days, and months just listening to how I was feeling, getting me what I needed, food or medications, picking me up when I was down, and making sure that I was staying positive and strong.

With all the uncertainty about what the future will hold, that was a full time job on its own. I knew that I didn’t want to die. I had to be here for my son. I told myself over and over again “Joseph can’t live without his dad.” My brother and his wife moved their family to Minnesota to be closer to me. That was amazing! I know I haven’t thanked them enough for the sacrifice they made to be with me. Thank you Chris and Megan!
Since having just moved to a brand new city, the only people I knew before I was rushed to the hospital was the hotel staff where I was staying. We are still friends to this day. They were very supportive of my family and friends when they would come to visit while we were staying at the hotel for 45 days. Always making sure they and I had everything we needed. Then there were my good friends from Milwaukee, Jeff and Nicole. They drove up prior to surgery to be with me and also returned a number of times to help out as well. You really know who your true friends are when something like this happens, that's for sure.
A lot was going through my mind all the time and I have come up with a quote that I believe is what patients need to realize and understand. It goes like this:
Staying positive can be hard at times, but you have to focus on what you believe your outcome will be. I am going to kick cancer's butt! Stay strong, get rest when you need it, and call on your friends and family for support. To admit that you need help is not a sign of weakness. You are not a statistic! You should be treated as a person not as a diagnosis."
As a patient, the most important thing to remember is that you need to ask for help or support, you are not being a bother to people. They can always say “no”. You may look fine from the outside but feel terrible on the inside. People can’t see that, so you need to speak up.
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