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The Voice of Confidence

When I was growing up, I had an uncle who used to deliberately use made-up words when talking to me. If I pretended to understand, he’d ask me what the nonsense word meant. When I admitted I didn’t know, he reminded me that the only silly question is the one not asked.

This lesson was hugely beneficial to me when faced with the thousand and one decisions that had to be made when cancer entered my life. As a journalist, it was second nature for me to ask questions, but faced with the enormity of what I was dealing with, I sometimes found myself tongue tied, unable to process, let alone question, all the things I was being told needed to happen.

Afraid and overwhelmed, it would have been easy to just accept what doctors said must be done. But even in the whirl of confusion following my diagnosis, I never let myself lose site of the fact that when it came to my body, the voice I had to heed was my own.

So while I did my best to be a “good patient”, I made it my business to understand what my options were in surgery and treatment. I took copious research notes and didn’t hesitate to quiz my medical team about what I learned. I brought my husband or a trusted friend to all appointments so they could remember what I might miss. I never forgot that the only silly question was the one I didn’t ask.

I didn’t do this because I didn’t trust my caregivers. I did it because this was my body – my life – being discussed, and the voice I had to trust most was my own.

It’s easy to be intimidated by cancer. It’s natural to want to implicitly trust in those we’ve hired to make us well. But books, support groups, the internet and community sites such as this exist to help shine the light on the dark corners of cancer treatment. Don’t forget that, by understanding what you are facing, and not allowing embarrassment, fear or intimidation get the better of you, you will be able to make the decisions that are best for you.

And that’s the best kind of patient anyone can hope to be.

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