Feature: 10 Important Questions You Should Be Asking Your Physician

61ONssbT0IL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Not too long ago I had the opportunity to score a feature story with Dr. Kevin Haselhorstauthor of Wish to Die Foras well as Emergency Physician. It seems pretty clear that he’s a clever man.  His passion is to help patients understand the questions they should be asking at any relative stage when you visit your physician, particuarlarly leaning towards an emergency situation.  Yet if you read the book you realize that everything he says is  relative to everything you should be asking anyway.  It is always nice to be prepared in the back of your mind and know the right thing to say when you’re in a wrong moment.

When I was initially diagnosed with cancer, we did not have any direction from our Doctors or the hospitals I was treated at.  Without having any guidance on what the next stages were and where we were supposed to go from there,  we often felt that we were out there on a lonely island, constantly wondering what was next or if we were taking the right steps and moving in the right direction. We of course had never been through anything of the sort. As my journey continues, my passion is to spread awareness and if this post reaches even one person and helps them, then that will be a blessing.

Dr. Haselhorst’s passion is preparing and making us aware of the questions we should be seeking, if we or anyone we care about are put in an unfortunate  situatuon.  Please read Dr Hasthorst’s feature below:


 

10 Important Questions Patients Never But Should Always Ask Physicians 

Patients often find it difficult to talk to physicians when they don’t particularly feel well. They tend to lack self-respect in these situations, failing to speak up for themselves. Naturally, this sentiment reflects upon physicians who are seen as not treating patients with dignity. Dignity implies self-confidence and certainty, rarely afforded to patients. Patients are mostly discounted in the decision-making process because they are not asking the right questions at the right time.

Emergency Medicine physician, Kevin Haselhorst, author of the book Wishes To Die For, firmly believes that patients have to be more proactive in their life-and-death decisions by asking pertinent questions and becoming informed. He encourages people to complete advance care directives to alleviate undue suffering at the end of life. But most patients don’t know what to wish for when life takes a turn for the worse since they rarely know what is being asked of them.

“The ultimate choice to live or die is not really just a medical decision,” he says, “… it’s a spiritual calling and one’s healthcare directives need to become one’s spiritual guidance documents to the living.”

Dr. Haselhorst identifies ten important questions he recommends people carry with them when they go to the hospital or when they see their physicians. They are designed to help them ask the right questions, make the right decisions, and achieve the best outcomes. Here they are:

Is this medical test really necessary?

Most of the testing performed in the emergency department are normal. This might have been reassuring to the patient, but often unsatisfying overall. Is the patient’s time and financial resources being respected or wasted? If the physician was almost certain that the tests would be normal or that they would not change the treatment plan, then why is the test required? Asking the doctor this question increases the chances you will receive adequate information.  If given the option, patients might wish to have doctors fine-tune their evaluations rather than shot-gun them. It can save pain in the emergency room and then later at home when the bill arrives.

Can you feel and understand my pain?

The doctor needs to know how bad is your pain, on a scale from 1-10, and where the pain is coming from.  Patients are asked this question routinely, but the number is not as useful and important as the actions and expressions you share. What you feel and what physicians perceive has to be communicated carefully since it is critical information that often determines what the doctor does next. Without adequate discussion, you may end up being prescribed pain medication rather than a being offered alternatives to the real source or cause of the problem.

How am I supposed to cope with the stress?

Patients and physicians rarely consider tension to be the primary cause of headaches, difficulty breathing, chest pressure or abdominal pain. Many ER physicians are reluctant to enter into discussions with anxiety-laden patients and may unconsciously suggesting that these symptoms are all in the head. Asking the doctor this question reduces the risk of these symptoms being ignored and increases the likelihood of you getting help that goes well beyond merely coping with anxiety. While it is true that the end of suffering is ultimately gained through the practice of acceptance – going with the flow of acknowledging and letting go, you should not be required to suffering unnecessary stress.

How can I be sure you are taking me seriously?

Did the physician take the time to ask you a lot of questions? Did you know the answers and give the doctor detailed information? Surprisingly, it is difficult to describe how they feel or remember when your symptoms started.  So write down the details you want to talk about with the doctor before you leave home. Tell the doctor what is going on, where and when it started. Tell the doctor what happened and what you’ve done or taken. The more you reduce the uncertainty that exists the better able the doctor will be to listen to your situation. Go prepared.

What am I to do next? What is the plan of action?

Ask the doctor to go over what you need to know once, twice, even three times. Till you get what you need to know. Don’t be the patients who claims, “The doctor never told me anything”.  As well as you can, ask the doctor for information about what you should do and what you should know. Write it down. Seek first to understand, and then repeat what you need to do out loud to the doctor to make sure you understood. Ask for a verification of the plan of action and steps to be taken.

How old do you think I am?  How old am I acting physically/mentally? 

Very few people wish to look or act their age, but when you get to the ER, it’s time to fess up. Don’t try to act like someone younger or healthier that you really are or feel. Act yourself and be real with the doctor. Adopt an attitude of honesty, sincerity and reason. Be in charge of your health. Pay attention to the health issues you can change from the ones you cannot. Confront the reality of the decisions you have to make. Exercise the best judgement and wisdom you are capable of.

Do you want to see me again?  When should I come back? 

Make sure you get clear orders and that the reason to come back is necessary and appropriate. Not needing to come back to the ER is not a comment on your popularity. But coming back to make sure you don’t need cardiac-bypass surgery is necessary and appropriate. If you’ve been in treatment for a while, cutting ties with primary care physicians or signing out from the emergency department is usually scary. Ask the doctors to tell you when you should contact them and under what circumstances you should call for a return visit.

Am I dying? How long do I have to live?  

These are two tough questions. You may think that you won’t be dying anytime soon, even if you are in treatment with a terminal illness. Healthcare professionals usually shield or discourage patients from thoughts of dying. Yet sometimes, these are the questions that need to be asked and confronted directly. Don’t believe your physician has a psychic ability to answer these questions.  Be prepared and listen carefully to his or her best medical opinions and judgements.

What is the endpoint to my disease or illness? What is the final outcome of this process or treatment?

Ask the doctor if the condition is transient, temporary or permanent. Ask how long it will take to recover. Be real and be prepared. The actual medical condition may catch you off guard. You may have to deal with a lengthy recovery. The chances of survival may not be that promising.  The outcome you hope for may not be possible and eternal life is not an option. Some time, the endpoint begins when you surrender – accept and understand – the medical conditions you face. It is only then that you can maximize the potential to both live the rest of your life happily and die with dignity and at peace.

Can you offer me spiritual guidance please? Can you respect my wishes to die with dignity in my own way? 

Physicians connect with patients on many personal levels, but rarely through in a way that address one’s personal and spiritual needs. As the end of life draws near, you may have needs that the doctor cannot provide or address. While your doctor may appreciate the struggles of you face empathetically, you need to ask the doctor to stop intervening on your behalf and allow nature to take its course.  Your dignity can be recognized if you tell the people around you to appreciate who you are spiritually, first and foremost. It is your right.

Love,

Britt x

Content provided by Direct PR on behalf on Tranquility Publishing and Dr. Hastlhorst
c/o Be Still My Heart Blog
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Funfetti @ 3am – A Video I Don’t Recall Making:


As someone who is attempting to share all aspects of my life, cancer included, I figured I’d share this video I found on my phone, that I presumably “filmed” last night.  It’s quite a laugh, but on a serious note  one of the side effects to my cancer and its slew of baggage is definitely insomnia.  I roam throughout the night and most often do not recall the happenings the following morning.  I can blame a lot of things, but the true culprit is the amount of drugs (medicine) that I have to consume to actually fall asleep at night.  Nevertheless, I make somewhat entertaining videos while the rest of the world is sleeping, and do not recall having made them the night prior.

Here is a first view of many into my crazy nights and cancer insanity, or just my own personal insanity rather.

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Love,

Britt x

Almost Thirty: Memory Lane Part II

The dog days of my youth have commenced, yet the remembrances of my beloved pups over the years have always maintained a place warm in my heart. Weary of most creatures (basically anything but dogs and horses), I wouldn’t dub myself to be an animal obsessed person. Always finding that I keep my distance and woo from afar, there have been a few special dogs over the course of my life have left a print, or paw print if you will.

Timmi was my main man. He was around long before I, as my Mum and Auntie Bev got him as a puppy when they were younger and moved to America. I’m so terrible with breeds that I wouldn’t even be able to tell you what he was, other than my very best friend from the start. It’s true what they say, “LOVE is a four legged word.” Bossing Timmi around, hanging on to him as if he were a miniature-pony and singing Dolly Parton to him incessantly was just a part of every day life in the Webster household. Kind and gentle, he’d always give me kisses good night and be there for me all over again the next morning. Forever my #1!

Timmi and Britt

KEG! A character in his own right and a proper English gentleman, he was a part of the package when I began dating Steve. Initially Keg was Steve’s sister’s, however once Steve returned from overseas and moved back to Phoenix the two instantly became a pair and have been inseparable since. It is without a shadow of a doubt that Steve and Keg were made for each other and their bond makes my heart swell. Keg loves me too…I think!

Keg Balloons

Steve and Keg

The newest addition to the Ochoa family is literally the love of my life, Zoila. Far be it for me to have ever judged anyone on social media that is dog crazed. Over the last four weeks, I have single handedly become that person. Initially when Steve suggested that we get her, I was hesitant. Nervous to add any stress to my already stressful life, I hummed and hawed almost to the point of no return. Yet, as soon as she was born and I saw a picture of her, I knew she and I belonged to one another. Kind of like the opposite to Holly Go-Lightly and her no-named cat. Zoi and I had an instant bond when Steve and I picked her up six weeks later. Since she has come into our lives I feel I have become much softer and a bit more forgiving of my health and my life, filling a massive hole in a once vacant space. It would be the easiest thing for me to gush all day, but I am sure I will be writing about all of the love she has brought into our lives for years to come!

Zoila One Week Old

Britt and Zoila

Zoila Unicorn

Last, but certainly not least is Comet. He wasn’t exactly MY dog, however he was my family’s dog and although I didn’t live with him, he brought such life for my brother’s and sister as they were growing up. Shortly after my family moved back to Arizona, Comet passed away, but as we know ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN!

Comet and Britt

Comet RIP

Thanks for taking this walk with me and some of the purest spirits to have graced my path with their unconditional love. Always kiss your dog goodnight.

Check back tomorrow! x

Love, Britt x

Almost Thirty: Memory Lane Part I

Memory

Sometimes I get a little sentimental about the days before I was diagnosed with cancer. Often times it’s when I am relaxing my achy soul in a steaming bubble bath while Patsy Cline cradles my heart with her soothing songs in the background. Drifting into another lifetime, the thought of the long-standing side effects of chemotherapy are not lost upon me. “Chemo brain” is the common lingo used to describe the forgetfulness, where some cancer patients like myself are greatly impacted. That combined with the lethal pain management medication, it becomes easy to have left your mind in an unknown place.

If memory serves me right (pun intended), I used to be as sharp as a tack. A memory of an elephant and the ability to recount the tiniest of details was a knack I thought I’d never shake. Admittedly I see now that I took it for granted. Throughout my school days it was not unusual for me to retain everyone’s name in every single class, whether we spoke or not. It was a part of my charm, even perhaps making others feel special every so often. Maybe?

Then cancer entered my life. I started treatment and one of the initial impressions of chemotherapy, aside from the physical elements, was feeling detached from my mind and memory. Spacey would be an understatement of how I swiftly felt as my treatment proceeded, leaving me to barely recount short or long-term cognizance.

From there it trickled down and sanctioned me into thinking about where my life is presently and all of the hopes and dreams I still have for myself. The floodgates to the inevitable neatly seep in and take over, with mortality becoming the forefront of every  foggy thought. In the midst of the flood, something happens and like a life vest, my memories suddenly save me. It can be triggered by a text, a picture, a song or even a smell and all at once, just like that, I remember. I remember why I fight so damn hard everyday to beat this cancer, to reclaim my life. The memories provide the sunshine when the path is too dim to see what’s ahead. And soon, I will be able to say that I have 30 years full of magnificent memories and have been blessed with such a colorful life.

As my 30th Birthday approaches, I am going to take a trip down memory lane each day and share some of my life’s most precious moments on  Be Still My Heart Blog. Life should be celebrated and while I continue to kick cancer’s ass each day, I will always have my blog to look upon and reminisce, giving me the fuel to continue to fight for my future.

Enjoy this gem of Steve and I on a trip to California and check in as I look back through the years…x

Love, Britt x

Britt + Wil: Art Collided

It’s a rarity to meet someone as enchanting as Wil Munny. Over the last six months, I have had the privilege of not only joining artistic forces with Wil, but also managed to make a great friend in the process.

Wil’s passion and eye for the arts is keen, rousing and raw-edged, as he’s brought diversified subject matters and people to the forefront of his creative ability through the camera lens. His artistic expressions become a narrative for the soul and Wil’s genuine flair is as contagious as it comes.

After a few coffee dates in Downtown Phoenix, Wil aided me out of a creative funk and provided another platform for me to share my journey with cancer and the positive aspects, which strengthen my attempt to bring awareness to young adult cancer.

Not a single one of his efforts is done for praise or admiration, but rather an attempt to make the world a better place, one photograph at a time. We share a similar passion for all mediums of art, as well as a sense of community for Downtown Phoenix, which is the natural backdrop for our photo session together.

Please take the time to check out Wil’s beautiful art at www.WilMunny.com and my story that is coupled with his work.

And, to “ART”, thank you for bringing Wil and I together — what a privilege it is to be able to practice self-expression and CREATE.

If you are in the Phoenix area, check out Wil’s work live and get a chance to meet him (you won’t regret it, promise). *Details of show:  Eye Lounge from August 21st through September 13th, 2015.

Here are snaps of our photo session — don’t forget to check out the rest on Wil’s site!

Love, Britt x