By: Christine Joyce

“You had the power all along my dear…you just had to learn it for yourself.” -Glinda, the good witch, The Wizard of OZ, (L. Frank Baum)

That one line probably best sums up my approach to being a Patient Coach for 11 Health.  I feel that one of the most important roles I have as a coach, and as a human being, is to encourage people to invest in themselves and in their health. The goal is to live the best life you can.  For me, the tools are pretty basic: education, engagement, and awareness.

I believe that in order to be the best advocate for someone else you must begin with learning how to be one for yourself.  When I got sick, it didn’t take too long to figure out that the most powerful person involved in my recovery was me.  That was a very motivating realization and it allowed me to become an active participant and be in control of something.

And having some sort of control over “something”, even if it was just ordering different ostomy supplies then what the hospital sent me home with, was very empowering.

I then began to understand how advocacy works and how powerful it is.

You have to educate yourself as much as you can about what you have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from your medical team. You have to engage them in honest conversation and then listen to what they tell you. Take notes if you have to; you must know what is going on with your own body and you have every right to get that information.

I learned early on to write my questions down on a piece of paper and, this is really important, to make sure I took that paper with me to my next visit! Do that for every appointment. Otherwise, you forget or get distracted and you don’t get your questions answered. Doctors are very busy – the more precise you are with your questions, the easier it is for them to give you the answers.

When I got home from my first hospital stay with a Hartman’s Pouch and an end colostomy after surgery for diverticulitis, I went straight to the computer to see what that was and soon discovered that it was a pretty major event, at least for me. And the more I learned, the more questions I had.

I remember one particular visit with my surgeon, probably about four months later.  My only question for him that day was simple: “You can reverse this, right?” I needed a straight answer, I needed to know he was listening to me, and I made sure that I had eye contact and his full attention when I asked.

Having as much information as I could get helped me in my understanding and acceptance of my illness and gave me the confidence I needed to move forward. To say I wasn’t still somewhat afraid would be a lie. But I found a power within myself I never knew I had and that has made this journey so much easier.