8 Steps to Becoming a Powerful Patient

You can and must determine your own fate. This is not to imply that everyone can survive any problem or illness. That, of course, is absurd. What is suggested is that you, the consumer, client, patient regard your doctor or other healthcare professional as a consultant and not a deity. Here are some tips for how to best utilize your doctor's knowledge:

1. Use your own intellect, as well as intuition, and see if what your doctor says makes sense to you. Do his words have the ring of truth to them?

2. If your doctor's words and recommendations do not ring true to you, you must either ask as many questions as you need to in order to understand fully and be understood.

3. If, after steps 1 and 2, you do not feel that ring of truth, if, in fact, you believe your doctor is wrong, DO NOT IGNORE your own inner voice. Continue to communicate with your doctor until you come to a shared belief about what is wrong and what should be done. If this step is not fulfilled, you should get a second opinion, or a third, or fourth, until you are satisfied. This does not mean, however, that you should ignore medical opinions if, for example, 10 doctors all tell you that you have breast cancer . . . and they all recommend the same treatment. At that point, you must accept the diagnosis. However, you still may choose to research your treatment options, including alternative and complementary therapies. In the case of cancer, these alternatives are best used in conjunction with radiation therapy, surgery, and/or chemotherapy.

4. You must set the terms for how long you will fight your illness or problem. If you hear the words, "Nothing more can be done," do not let those words penetrate your being. You decide when enough is enough. There are no rules for how long it takes to recover from illness, even though there are general guidelines for a particular illness. Remember this: Your illness is not separate from you. It can not be measured as something separate from you. Example: two people each have diabetes mellitus. The diagnosis may be all that they have in common. Your habits, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, diet, exercise, prayer, and determination are vital factors that make it impossible for your doctor not to treat you as an individual. Likewise, it is your responsibility to treat yourself with respect.

5. Do not accept death sentence predictions from doctors. If your doctor says you have three months to live, do not act as if that is a fact. Remember that when AIDS was first discovered, it was widely believed that 100% of those with HIV would die within 18 months. Now we know that: A) not everyone who is HIV positive develops AIDS, B) many people with active AIDS have lived nearly 20 years, and C) some HIV positive people have reverted to HIV negative.

6. Listen to the odds, but don't be a statistic.

7. When your doctor states something that you feel or know to be false, ask him or her for proof. Ask for scientific documentation, research papers, about what he or she claims to be a fact.

8. If you trust your doctor and if his or her recommendations ring true and make sense, then you must, at some point, "trust and surrender." Do not go on questioning forever. Do your own homework. Research your own case. Get second opinions. But ultimately, you must commit to one healing path or another. "Surrendering" to your doctor may sound contradictory to the first 7 steps, but it is not. At some point, after having made a decision, surrender the decision to God. Ninety-five percent of you believe in God, so and fifty percent of atheists and agnostics pray, so obviously the topic can safely be discussed here. There is a time to let go, to "turn it over," to trust in the healing process that you have finally chosen. Give that healing path time. There are more than 20 healthcare systems in the world. Do not jump from one to another without fully committing to each one.

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