Cystic Fibrosis

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    5 Ways to Advocate for Yourself at Your Doctor's Office

    Part 1 of 2 Chronic illness can make us feel disempowered. The unpredictable and shifting symptoms leading to pain, worry, doctors appointments, cancelled plans and relational and economic impact emphasises feelings of lack of control over our life, body and emotions. With the lifelong disease of cystic fibrosis there are two things that have been the epicentre of feeling more empowered as a person living with chronic illness: self-education around health and wellness; and learning to advocate for myself in any situation but particularly at the doctors office.

    You can advocate for yourself in any situation or interaction if you want to and it feels appropriate to you; for me it is closely related to educating others, respecting yourself and your needs, and honouring your boundaries. As a young person with cystic fibrosis I had no idea about boundaries or speaking up for myself – I never knew that I could refuse doctors physical examinations, or ask for a female clinician so that I felt more comfortable having my teenage body examined. I never knew that I could ask as many questions of my doctors as I wanted to, or even refuse a particular treatment if I didn’t want it. Over hundreds of hospital appointments and other life experiences over many, many years I learned that I had every right to advocate for myself with my doctors as well as my partners, friends, parents and employers and it has greatly improved my confidence, self love and my sense of empowerment in living with chronic illness.

    Here are 5 ways you can advocate for yourself with your medical team and specialists:

    1. Arrange your medical appointments at times and days that suit you, your health and your schedule. I admit that depending on which medical system you are in, this may or may not be possible, but I certainly recommend you to try. If you feel physically much worse early morning, maybe you prefer an afternoon appointment so you don’t feel rushed or extra stress to get to your appointment on time. Maybe you have a job where you feel terribly guilty and uncomfortable asking for time off for medical appointments, so ask if you can have an appointment outside your working hours.

    2. If you don’t like your doctor or specialist, ask to see someone else. I think we are all aware that some doctors are just not ‘people persons’ , ie. have a terrible bedside manner and do not know how to communicate or relate well with patients. This can be really off-putting and unpleasant as a person with chronic illness, because you may well feel alone in your illness already, and so a kind doctor that listens can be really important to you and the management of your health. Sometimes we simply are just not a good personality match with our designated doctor, so don’t be afraid to ask for a different one! There are normally several doctors working in the field of your particular illness, so it’s not a problem to be listed with a different practitioner. If your hospital or receptionist make it into a big problem or make you feel guilty for asking this – kindly remind her of your rights and if you need to, ask to speak with the head of the department.

    3. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want. Chronic illness is often complicated and can feel especially overwhelming if we don’t understand what is happening in our bodies or minds. Remember, your doctors are there to help you and treat your conditions, and that is what they are paid for, so don’t be afraid to ask questions – there are no dumb questions, and you have the right to proper care and communication.

    4. If you want a second opinion, ask for it. As we know, chronic illness can be difficult to treat and doctors are often semi ‘experimenting’ with your particular symptoms, and they will often admit that themselves. Chronic illnesses and their treatments are not an exact science. If you receive a diagnosis or treatment plan that you don’t feel certain about, you can ask the doctor to either consult with his colleagues or you can ask for a second opinion. This doesn’t have to be as confrontational as it sounds, you can simply voice your concerns and explain that you would feel much happier with another doctor also looking at your case. If the doctor is unwilling to assist in this, you can speak to the reception, the head of the department, the hospital manager or another hospital/clinic.

    5. You don’t have to comply with treatments or tests. This can be a bit more of a delicate area, as I have experienced myself in the past and the present. Let’s be clear, doctors do not normally like to be disobeyed or feel like their professional opinion is not right for you. I have had several doctors who have not taken too kindly to my refusal of a particular treatment. I am not proposing that you reject all medical treatment, but I am suggesting that

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    Running journey update - need advise

    So I had one of my worst runs ever today. I’m training for a Turkey trot 5k but I have severe asthma and some other breathing issues. My friend and I decided to go on a 4 mile run today bc I’ve been doing a lot better with the running and I was hoping that if I could go farther than the 3 miles, the day of I would be better. Well right off the bat my lungs were already a mess. I did my inhaler before I left as per usual and did it again about 1.75 miles in bc I was having a hard time. Then I produced so much mucus that I almost threw up a few times. The Turkey trot is less than a week away and I’m running it with another freind who ran track and is more than a foot taller than me. I’m really nervous bc I don’t want to hold him back and I want to enjoy the race. I’m not sure how I regressed so much today. It felt like before I even started training and I don’t know how to fix it. #Asthma #Exercise #CysticFibrosis (I don’t have CF but some of my symptoms have always been really similar so maybe someone can help me out?)

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    How chronic medical neglect in childhood has repercussions into adulthood

    “How does one resolve the triggers of childhood medical neglect as an adult?”

    I asked myself this question; because, I am experiencing overwhelming emotions in response to my current barriers to medical treatment.

    Throughout my childhood, any time I told my mother I didn’t feel well, she would respond with, “If you’re still sick in two weeks, I’ll take you to the doctor.” There were only four times in my childhood I was taken to a healthcare practitioner. The first was when one of my toes was hacked half off in an accident. The second was when my third grade teacher told my mother I might need glasses. The third was when, at the age of 15, I told my mother I wanted to go to a doctor and find out why one of my breasts was a full cup-size smaller than the other one. The fourth time was during that same year. I was taken to a mental health professional when my parents were informed by my school that in the year prior I had, on one single, isolated occasion, missed my Physical Education class without an excuse note being submitted.

    I came to believe that my health only mattered to my parents if I might die or if they thought my health issues might reflect badly upon them; i.e., another adult pointed out there might be a problem that could affect my grades; I might be deformed and, therefore, a freak; or I might be considered a disciplinary problem by other adults.

    As an adult looking back on health symptoms I had as a child, I now know there were some serious issues that went unaddressed; which, I am now forced to deal with on my own.

    From the age of 6, I would get recurring, excruciating abdominal pain. This was likely the beginning symptoms of the Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis I was diagnosed with two years ago. I realize this because, just like me, my granddaughter began experiencing similar abdominal pains when she was 6 years old and, three years ago, was diagnosed with Hereditary Chronic Childhood Pancreatitis.

    From the age of 12, I have had a chronic and progressively worsening productive cough. Last year, I was scheduled by a Pulmonary Specialist for a sweat chloride test for Cystic Fibrosis because of my current and historic symptoms and the fact that my sister and her son tested positive for the CFTR mutation. The pancreatitis SPINK1 genetic mutation and the CFTR genetic mutation are related. This is why most pediatric pancreatitis patients are CF patients. Unfortunately, I was never able to receive the sweat chloride test because of barriers to medical care; which, I am still trying to navigate.

    At the age of 14, I had my first suicide attempt. Rather than rush me in for a psychological evaluation, my mother ridiculed me in front of my siblings. Last year, I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    Being a low-income, Senior, disabled woman on Medicare I am experiencing many barriers to healthcare. Every time I experience these or run up against roadblocks in advocating for myself, my inner child is re-triggered with the devastating belief that my health, and therefore my life, does not matter to others.
    The silver-lining to this story is that an anonymous person paid for a scholarship so that I can attend a month-long “” workshop hosted by Perhaps, I will find the answer to my question there.


    Portable Oxygen Users Survival Tips

    How do you make using portable oxygen in public easier? I'm looking for ideas to help make returning to the office easier. #CysticFibrosis #ChronicObstructivePulmonaryDisease #MixedConnectiveTissueDiseaseMCTD #IdiopathicPulmonaryFibrosis #pulmonary

    See full photo

    Holidays can be weird when you’re sick. And it’s not just because they provoke anxiety over an extra day of not being able to get hold of your doctor just in case a body part malfunctions. Oftentimes there’s a lot of guilt surrounding holidays. There’s this overarching expectation that holidays will be carefree, fun, and energizing. Many times, we try to fit ourselves into that mold, uphold those adjectives, for the sake of the family. I hate it when I have to think about or pay attention my to health/reduced health.

    On this particular holiday, I dislocated my hip (not unusual, but especially bad this time) which has resulted in my legs being an impressive 4-5” in difference right now, which means I have searing pain all the way down my leg and up my spine. My hip being out is putting pressure on my feet in weird places, which resulted in me having to interrupt the holiday to go get shoes that wouldn’t put even more pressure on my still-newly-not-fractured foot (on the same side as my dislocated hip).

    I cried in my car on the way back home. Because, on this day that is all about freedom, I feel anything but free. To feel a prisoner in your body is a very hard thing…and a feeling that only those who have experienced it can truly understand.

    But, free or prisoner, we still have some freedoms. We have the freedom to not allow our illness to overcome us. We have the freedom to choose to see the beauty in the brokenness. We have the freedom to continue fighting like hell against the night that threatens to consume. And we have the freedom to believe that all of this—yes, all of it—will work out into something beautiful. Freedom isn’t free—and believing that is a sacrifice. But your life, your body, YOU—you are worth that sacrifice. Your life has purpose, and what a beautiful freedom is bestowed upon us when we remember that. #EhlersDanlosSyndrome #CysticFibrosis


    I'm new here!

    Hi everyone! I’m Anna, @annasorganiclife. I’m new to The Mighty and look forward to sharing my story.