woman patient in exam room with medical doctor, being your own best advocate

As moms, we know the importance of keeping ourselves healthy for our babies. When it comes to healthcare decisions, you have to be your own best advocate to get the care you deserve.

This past December I went to my doctor for a slightly embarrassing issue. I was in the throes of marathon training and after my long runs I would rush to the bathroom with GI discomfort. And sometimes there was blood. I didn’t even bring it up to my doctor at first. But when I had to go back to refill a prescription, I decided I’d mention it. She said that it was probably just from running, but that she’d write me an order for a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy? That sounded VERY dramatic for how small of an issue this seemed to be. Turns out it wasn’t dramatic, and it wasn’t small. I had a very large precancerous polyp that was all but unheard of at my age. It was months away from being colorectal cancer. Her decision to order a colonoscopy saved my life.

A few months later I noticed a hard, rubbery lymph node on my leg. I went to my doctor the next day, and she agreed that it needed a closer look. She ordered an ultrasound, and when that came back clear, she ordered a CT scan “just to be sure.” Thankfully, this lymph node was totally benign.

My doctor went to bat for me twice in the last few months. She ordered tests quickly, spoke with the radiologist herself, and called me immediately with results. Believe me, I know how lucky I am to have this level of care.

We Are Our Own Best Advocates

While my doctor is nothing short of a superhero, this year has taught me that navigating the medical field can be frustrating. Faxed orders don’t get received. Schedulers don’t call. Messages don’t get on doctors’ desks. And my least favorite phrase, “Let me transfer you,” gets said all too often. So what’s the balance between trusting the healthcare system and ensuring we get the best medical care?

Here are some tips I’ve learned on being your own best advocate.

You Know Your Body Best

We say this to our kids all the time, so don’t forget to say it to yourself. We are the experts on our own bodies. If something feels off, get it checked out right away.

Come Prepared

When you can, know ahead of time what outcome you’re looking for from your medical provider. Ask for a specific test rather than wait to see if they suggest it first. Don’t leave the office until you feel comfortable that your concern is being looked into. If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, get another opinion.

Follow Up

I don’t know if it’s because Mercury is always in retrograde or if I’m just lucky, but my file is always the one that gets lost in the cracks. I never wanted to bother the front office staff by calling—I’m a people pleaser to a fault. But I’ve learned that this is the self-advocacy part. When I call, I am kind and polite, but firm. “When can I expect a callback?” and “When would it be reasonable for me to call if I don’t hear from you?” are questions I now have in my arsenal.

Always Ask

If you find that a test or an appointment has a longer wait than you’re comfortable with, it never hurts to ask for an earlier date. I also don’t put much stock in cancellation lists as I personally have never been called after being on one. Instead, I call every morning (again, being kind is key here), and ask if there are any new openings. I once had a friend move up her mammogram date by months using this technique.

Speak To Your Doctor Directly

In the age of patient portals, we sometimes get our test results before we receive a call from our doctor. This can be a huge relief, or it can raise more questions than answers. If it’s a test that you’re anxious about, resist the urge to click on “View Results.” Instead, call your doctor directly. They can provide context, reassurance, and guide your next steps.

Remember that by being your own best advocate, you can make sure you’re the healthiest mom you can be for years to come.

Shannon Brady
Shannon moved with her husband to Cape Cod during the pandemic to be closer to family. She is originally from Providence and married her high school sweetheart Tom. She went to college at Boston University and earned her degree in human physiology. She worked as a preschool teacher before applying to graduate schools to pursue her degree in physical therapy. She attended USC to get her doctorate in physical therapy and spent 10 years in Los Angeles with her husband. During the pandemic, she and her husband bought a home in Dennisport to be closer to family. After over two years of infertility, they welcomed their daughter Lily. They then welcomed their second daughter Hailey a short sixteen months later. Shannon is a physical therapist and a board-certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist, although she currently stays home with her girls, who are now one and two years old. She is passionate about using her knowledge in physical therapy to empower parents and give them confidence around their baby’s development. She is an avid runner and former Girls On The Run coach with a strong desire to advocate for young women and girls in sport. She also enjoys reading, cooking, snuggling with her dog Jack and watching reality TV. Shannon’s favorite part of living on Cape Cod is being able to watch fireworks from Chatham to Hyannis from the beach on the 4th of July.


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