These field notes came out of my cancer experience. Some information is not cancer-exclusive, however, and may be useful for some of you. Try or share what resonates and discard the rest. More to come!
Written by Geri Ann Higgins
Your “Cancer Club” pass comes with a slew of fast-tracked appointments. The jarring diagnosis opens the floodgates to multiple specialists, techs and additional diagnostics. There is so much information coming at you chock-full of unfamiliar medical jargon and scary terminology punctuated by a strong and serious sense of urgency. Many times I would see the doctors’ mouths moving, but not comprehend what they were saying. I could only hear the voice in my head repeating, “You have cancer!”
What helped: Making a list of questions and bringing a friend and/or family member to the appointments with me. They also took notes and asked additional clarifying questions.
What I wish I knew at the time: How much better I would feel once I had a “plan”. Prior to developing one, I was filled with the fear of the unknown and felt rushed and scared. Portions of the plan were concrete and others more fluid. Just knowing one existed and was team-informed elevated my courage and confidence.
Some things you can do or think about right now:
Select and bring a special notebook or journal to appointments that keeps all your questions, answers, doodles and affirmations in one place.
Take a moment. Before going in to your appointment, close your eyes and slow down your breathing. Think of how you want to feel during your appointment: Focused? Clear-headed? Informed? Strong? Secure? Decisive? What is the most important aspect of what you want to take away from this appointment?
Capture for later. Ask the provider if they are open to your recording the appointment (or portions of it).
Ask. Listen. Ask some more.
Write down how you feel physically and mentally in between appointments. Highlight or circle things you’re curious or worried about. Sometimes you forget something you wanted to bring up and only remember it once you’ve left! Having it in one place means you can easily flip back a few pages and capture that bit of information.
Embrace the power of the doodle! Doodling is proven to enhance focus. A lifelong doodler, I can attest to having a feeling of comfort and being less distracted while doing so.
Write your notes in cursive for better retention – studies show cursive strengthens working memory and comprehension. Good things to have at your appointments!
Be clear. Prior to walking out the door, repeat the action steps/recommendations between this appointment and the next. Don’t feel funny asking for clarification if you’re still unsure about something. This is YOUR time. Get what you need.
Next Up: Arnica Gel & Additional Jottings
Medical Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health professional.
Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.
A dictionary of usefulness for the toughest of times.
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Thank you for your spot-on comment. That is my goal!
You know, reading this, I was reminded of my Mom’s first diagnosis. I was so incredibly distraught – until I learned what exactly cancer meant. I found a great resource (“Informed Decisoins”) and read about breast cancer. I needed to know how it worked and what is actually was. Once I had facts, it took some of the emotional turmoil away. My parents started taking a recorder with them to appointments during that time. The doctor shouldn’t mind – in fact, I think they should encourage it. Taking a friend is an excellent idea! Love your doodles, sweetie :) Have a great weekend!
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I’m so sorry that you went through that experience with your mother’s diagnosis. I’m glad you utilized some empowering tools to help you through the difficulty. Thank you for your kindness about my doodles! Enjoy your weekend, as well!