I’m still learning how to advocate for myself, but I’m grateful for all of the lessons and experiences that have helped me understand what it means to be your own advocate.

As patients, it’s essential that we learn how to advocate for ourselves. While I was in the hospital for my colectomy, I found it difficult at times to advocate for myself. I was tired, in pain, and sometimes I didn’t know what I needed for support. Having a family member around to check on me regularly and talk to the nurses and doctors and thank them for my care was helpful. It reminded me that I was not alone and when I wasn’t feeling well enough or confident to make decisions on my own. We made them together. I also believe that it reassured the medical staff to see that I had some support. They felt appreciated, but I also think they respected that I needed to feel empowered in my care. When you’re struggling with an illness which you don’t have control over, knowing that you have the right to make choices and receive support makes a big difference.

Being in those situations challenged me to know myself better, speak up when needed, and recognize which doctors and nurses listen best and act quickly. It showed me how strong I am and taught me how to depend on those around me. It’s a tricky balance sometimes and one that takes practice and patience! I learned that the best medical facilities I’ve been in appreciate and respect when patients ask questions and want to be involved in their own care. In fact, they expect it. They should take a reasonable amount of time to answer your questions and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Over the past eighteen years, being an ostomate, I’ve learned a lot more about what I need to take good care of myself and how to advocate for my own care. There were times I needed to advocate for myself and I didn’t. In those times, it still worked out. However, it would have been better if I fought for myself more. As I get older, I realize more that it’s okay to ask for the support you need. In fact, it’s what we’re meant to do.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned that building rapport with the nurses in your doctor’s office is invaluable. Speaking kindly and being patient, while firm in your resolve, works wonders. Asking the right questions of the right people makes all the difference. It takes experience and making mistakes. It also takes the willingness to not compromise, to hold your ground, and to go somewhere else if you’re not receiving the care that you need.

I’m still learning how to advocate for myself, but I’m grateful for all of the lessons and experiences that have helped me understand what it means to be your own advocate. What helps you advocate for yourself as a patient?

Katie Vyn, Patient Coach


Katherine Vyn