Ten Tips for Surviving the Health Care System

by Shelle Rose Charvet

“The good news is that your condition is pre-cancerous. The bad news is that it is untreatable and I strongly recommend that you have a mastectomy.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say was the good news?” The doctor’s mouth continued to flap open and closed; I know he made sounds, but the words disappeared into a vortex.

Over the last couple of years I have been in and out of crowded doctors’ waiting rooms, been pinched by mammogram machines, had needles shot into my body to remove tissue samples while I was held in a vice, had a large piece surgically taken out of me and my whole breast removed.

Luckily, my mother often came with me on doctor visits. Luckily, my friend who works at the cancer information centre showed up with a large pile of information. Luckily, my brother accompanied me through the procedures to hold my hand and get answers when my brain shut down.

“Gee, you sound really mellow after your operation.”

“I don’t do mellow. I’m still drugged.” But even in my groggy state, I realized that there must be a better way to go through this. So I thought up 10 tips for surviving the health care system.

1. Always assume that you have fallen through the cracks, unless you get proof to the contrary. No news is not good news. It may mean that someone forgot to do something. Medical care can be complicated and need a lot of co-ordination among large numbers of people.

2. Never blame anyone. Recognize that everyone working in the system is very busy and probably stressed-out. While you are only concerned with yourself, they are juggling dozens of people, or hundreds.

3. Create positive relationships with everyone who can help you. Introduce yourself to every nurse, receptionist, technician and doctor that you will need to see again. Ask them for their first name. Remember it or record it for quick reference.

Next time you see them establish rapport by using their first name and engaging them in personal chat before you get down to business. It only takes a few seconds. This will help ensure that you become more than just a file, and will give you some insight into what each person does. It also makes it easier to request things when you need to.

4. Apologize before you make a request. “I’m sorry to bother you when you are so busy, but since I hadn’t heard from you, I thought I’d better check whether you were able to make the appointment.”

Canadians naturally apologize for anything, even when we are not responsible. It’s time we learned to use the power of apology. If you say you’re sorry, you can ask for just about anything – and still be perceived as nice.

5. Take someone with you and give them a job to do. For any important meeting or procedure, take a friend or family member with you. Their job is to remain sane, create rapport and ask good questions. This way, if you lose your grip, someone else still has it.

6. Use all your contacts. Surely someone you know, knows someone who knows someone who can find out what you need. At times this may be the only way to obtain information, a second opinion or to get in to see someone quickly. If you are hesitant to use your contacts, apologize for bothering them.

7. Be prepared to do a lot of waiting. Make appointments early in the day before the doctor has a chance to get behind schedule. This way you’ll see the doctor before she/he gets tired and cranky. Just after lunch is okay too. Remember to take something you like to do in case you have to wait anyway.

8. Take everything your doctors way as information instead of gospel. Allow yourself time to think about it. Remember that medical professionals are trained to think about and discuss the worst possible scenarios. Ask them what each treatment is supposed to accomplish and repeat that message over and over to yourself to create a goal-oriented mindset within yourself. Write down your questions prior to the appointment and write down the answers – or ask your companion to do the writing.

9. Do what you need to do to stay upbeat and positive. It’s perfectly normal to feel depressed and demoralized upon hearing bad news. I’ve been through shock, numbness, denying that this could be happening, panic, anger and feeling depressed. You can let yourself feel all those things, knowing that this is how you are felling at this moment in time, and that you will move on. Continually remind yourself that you are good at healing, that you get better quickly. Notice what has improved each day and comment on it to yourself and others. While some may think this weird; you can even speak to your physical self; cheer for your immune system and thank it for sticking up for you.

10. Hang out with cheerful, upbeat and helpful people. I found it wearing having to cheer up other people when I told them I had cancer. I was also subjected to everyone’s personal dogma regarding what I should do. It ran the gamut; from slavishly following every instruction from the doctor to never believing anything the doctor says.

There is only so much sympathy you can take before you begin to believe that you ought to feel sorry for yourself. Only see people who make you feel good – who make you laugh, who get you out, who bring over lovely things to eat. If someone asks you how can they help – get them to make morale-raising food, take you to a funny movie, or bring over a good video. If depressing people want to come over, apologize and tell them you’re not up to it.

At the beginning of last year I went through several major reconstructive surgeries, some of which were quite difficult. A few months ago my 11-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. So far, so good – the tips have helped a lot. Although, I have to admit that it’s been much harder dealing with my feelings about my son’s illness than my own. While I’m able to be positive about his healing with him, his brother and the care-givers, the challenge has been keeping myself positive when I’m alone.

I’ve been getting extra support to help me. I go to a therapist to get frustrations off my chest and insight. I shrug my shoulders and forgive myself when I forget where I’m going. I play solitaire on the computer. And I’ve discovered a great excuse to have a lot of little rewards. Where did I leave my pack of Werthers?

Permission to reprint kindly granted by Shelle Rose Charvet, of Success Strategies, Ontario, Canada.

Web: www.successtrategies.com

Tel: +1 905 639-6468

Tapping Cards

I often given tapping homework to clients: “tap on these issues a few times a day until we next meet”. Sometimes I’ve written the instructions out for them. Next time we meet, they’ll say things like “I forgot what you said”, “I lost the little bit of paper”.

I came up with the ‘Tapping Cards” idea as a way of giving clients, and myself, a way of selecting issues to work on and being able to track progress as things change. They’re designed to help you identify and work with background emotional states. These are our habitual feeling states that are at work on a day to day basis, they may be so familiar to us that they go unrecognised. The tapping cards allow us to identify a variety of negative emotions that may be at work in us and give us a way of working with them.

You need to have little experience of EFT for two reasons:

  1. The instructions will make more sense.
  2. You may find that this process triggers stuff in you and you need to be able to use EFT to reduce any intensity in your reactions.

Each card consists of a ‘feeling statement’, setup and reminder phrase, and a second setup and reminder phrase.

Sample 'Tapping Card'

By using the card as a prompt you can judge which emotional states are operating and devise a consistent way of working with those feelings.

Here is one way of using them:

  1. Once a week take a few minutes to work through all the cards one at a time to create a collection of tapping cards that apply to you.
  2. For each card read aloud the ‘feeling statement’ at the top of the card and estimate it’s intensity.
  3. If the statement has some intensity place the card on a ‘tapping pile’, otherwise put that card aside.
  4. When you’ve gone through the all the cards you should have a small collection of tap-able cards and another pile of cards that do not apply to you.
  5. Every day, give each card in the ‘tapping pile’ a few rounds of EFT using the setup and reminder statements provided (or substitute your own versions). Do this more than once a day if you can.
  6. If the card ‘loses it’s intensity’ after a few days put it back into the non-tapping pile.
  7. At the end of the week, review all of the cards and create a new tapping pile for the next week.

If you are interested in trying them out, you can download them in several page formats free of charge. To download cards in Acrobat PDF format place mouse pointer over appropriate format and select “Save Link As”.

Tapping Cards (pdf) : 5×3 Index CardA4Letter

To make the cards you can either print out the index card version on any printer that can handle 3×5 index cards. If your printer can’t cope with that, print the sheets of A4 or Letter size and cut them out for yourself.

I hope you find these useful. If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

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NLP Practice Group (Newcastle)

Whilst it’s interesting to read about NLP, it’s much more useful to try it out for yourself, since NLP is much more a skill than a body of knowledge. Fortunately you don’t have to go to the expense of a NLP Practitioner Training to practice. You can visit your local NLP practice group, and find out for yourself about how to use NLP. NLP practice groups are informal gatherings, they usually have a wide range of skills and experience experience from beginners through to Master Practitioners and beyond. There are usually a range of activities appropriate to all levels of practice, so they are a greate place to try things out and get questions answered.

The practice days occur on the first Saturday of every month between 10:00am and 5:00pm at an Adult Learning Centre on the site of Cheviot Primary School.

Cheviot Primary School
Kidlandee Place, off Trevelyan Drive
Newbiggin Hall Estate
Newcastle on Tyne
NE5 4EB

You can find out more about this group by logging on to the NclNLP2004 newsgroup , by emailing Chris Burrow c.h.burrow@ncl.ac.uk , or phoning him on 07855 074736.

It’s a great way to dip your toe into the world of NLP.

The Bodywork Centre

The Bodywork Centre

The Bodywork Centre is my Friday home, some of you will already know it, but for those who don’t, it’s a comfortable old building tucked away behind one of Hexhams main streets. It’s a 300 year old Grade II Listed Building. It has many original features, including oak beams, original fireplaces and low doors (I spend a lot of time ducking).

After many years and many uses it’s now home to a wide range of therapies including:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Alexander Technique
  • Bowen Technique
  • Counselling
  • Chiropody
  • Homeopathy
  • Indian Head Massage
  • Nutritional Therapy and allergy testing
  • NLP & EFT
  • Oriental medicine
  • Osteopathy
  • Reflexology
  • Reiki
  • Remedial massage
  • Shiatsu

There’s also a warm, comfortable training room with, stained glass windows by a local artist, that can be hired for meetings, classes & training events. The room will hold up to 20 people seated, or 12 moving around (e.g. for yoga). Some of the current classes include:

  • Yoga
  • Qi Gong
  • Stress Management
  • Pilates

Not only that, there is an excellent cafe on the premises (I can personally vouch for their carrot cake) and a gift shop.

The Bodywork Centre is at 19 St Mary’s Chare, Hexham. Tel: 01434 601577

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