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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#BSMHB – 1st VLOG of 2016

Happy New Year!

The last month of 2015 proved to be crazy — to say the least.  Here’s a little re-cap of everything that went down with my operation and how I am recovering, as well as what’s up for 2016.


Always,

Britt x

#2 “Cancerversary” Q & A:

#2 Cancerversary

Upon my #2 year “cancerversary” I reflected upon the journey with some Q&A:

Q: What makes you smile these days?

A: Air conditioning first and foremost, but otherwise it’s just the simple things; a funny text, a song on the radio that triggers a lovely memory and of course the fact that I am lucky enough to get the summer free from chemo. A break from treatment has left a permanent smile on my face.

Q: Did you learn anything in your second year of battling cancer?

A: YES! Not all things are fair, but that is the nature of life. I’ve realized that I am here on a spiritual journey and if I’m open, l will see the beautiful lessons all around. But most of all, I’ve learned to accept my defeats and try to grow from them instead of letting them control me in a negative way.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment in the last year?

A: Ah! There are too many, this last year has been so good to me. I’d say my most precious moment was when I was in Liverpool with my Nan and a street violinist played, “You are my Sunshine” and my Nan sang it word for word to me. It was an emotional, raw moment that I’ll never forget.

Q: What have you done to make your life less stressful?

A: I’ve stuck to my zero bullshit tolerance. I often walk on such a fine line of being content and depressed and in order to remain on the positive side of things I’ve learned that I need to protect myself. It’s a challenge.

Q: Are you carrying any excess baggage into your third year as a cancer patient?

A: No. I’d say I am in a pretty great place; my tumor markers are at an all time low, my body is getting stronger each day and I am focusing on my mental health constantly. I’m also creatively in a good place, with a lot of different projects in the works.

Q: Is there anyone that deserves a big “THANK YOU”?

A: Anyone that has given me love, encouragement and support over the last two years. I always feel the love.  Steve and my Nan are saints and I can never thank them both enough, especially.

Q: What are your top three goals for the next year?

A: Obviously first and foremost is to try and stay as healthy as possible, with the thought that my terminal illness is not a death sentence and try to live as normally as I can. I’d also like to put a lot of energy into my creative power, publish the book that I am co-authoring and manifest a steadfast voice for cancer patients and survivors.

Q: What has the biggest lesson been so far with having cancer?

A: Sometimes painful things can teach us the most beautiful lessons. I’ve seen people’s true colors, as well as my own and I’ve realized that peace really does have to come from within.

Q: What are your fears?

A: Letting fear win. Once fear enters the mind, it takes over the body and I can’t afford to let that happen.

Q: What have you struggled with in the last year that you want to change?

A: Communication was my biggest struggle this year. I have a tendency to be such a loner and keeping up with people and connecting sometimes takes a lot of energy for me. But, I realize the significance of my relationships and I’d like to be able to reciprocate my time and energy more often and freely. It is so important.

Q: What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

A: TRAVEL! A year ago I was on travel lockdown and too sick to pack up and go. This year I’ve managed to travel and it’s been bliss! My two biggest trips were Hawaii with Steve and the UK with my Nan. My world opened up again this year and changed me forever.

Q: What word best describes the way you’ve spent the last year of your life?

A: Transparent.

Q: In one year from today, how do you think your life will be different?

A: Hopefully my cancer will still be in a manageable place, where I can continue to have a quality of life. Second to that, I hope to get published and see the book lined on shelves for everyone to read. High hopes, always!

Q: Are there any issues from the cancer that you continually avoid to talk about?

A: Yes, the dynamic that takes place with family members when cancer is in the mix. Those you think would be there aren’t always able to show up for you and it is difficult to accept. So far the thing I hate most about cancer is what it can do to a family.

Q: What is something that no one, not even cancer can take away from you?

A: Writing. At times cancer can take away my will to live, but writing let’s me bleed and reminds me that I am alive.

Q: When you look into the past, before your diagnosis, what do you miss the most?

A: Pre-cancer me is such a stranger now. I miss feeling young, wild and free. Cancer can feel like a trap at times and my body feels ancient.

Q: What is the #1 change you need to make in your life for the next 12 months?

A: Let go of what I can’t change. I think that’s a quote, but accepting change is what I need to change.

Q: What have you learned about yourself in the last two years that you have been a cancer patient?

A: I’m pretty fu*kin strong!  Also, the importance of mental health — it can be so tricky!

Q: What is one thing right now that you are totally sure of?

A: That you can never really be sure of anything.

Q: What question do you often ask yourself?

A: Where is my mind? I sing it to myself though, like the Pixies.

Q: Time or money?

A: Time, it’s priceless.

Q: What is your wish for the next year of your life?

A: Happiness.

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A BROAD, ABROAD WITH A BLOG, ✈

Hello, my shining moonbeams. It’s been a minute. Within that minute I have entered what I feel to be a new phase in my life, a freeing phase that is catapulted by happiness. For nearly a month, I spent time across the pond and rediscovered my life and the things I want out of it.

To start off, wow. Can I just say – I LOVE ENGLAND! I’ve always known that and I had been there times before, but this time felt different. As most of you know, if you follow my story, I have been on travel lock down since my cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2013. By nature I am a jetsetter. I enjoy being in unknown places, without being attached to my “real” life and the troubles within. When I travel, there is a certain romance to it, a freedom that allows you to be whomever you want and for me, that is living without a terminal illness. I’m able to go back to being me; an adventurer with thirst in my blood for worldly experiences. When I was diagnosed, I felt that one of the biggest losses to having cancer was the fact that I could no longer be as free as I wished to be. My citizen of the world passport would no longer apply and I’d be stuck doing treatment after treatment without an escape. My escape had become writing. If I were no longer going to be able to leave and experience life, then I’d write about it, which I have.

This year, 2015, I vowed to myself that it would be different than the last two, that I would yet again spread my wings and live a little. In the beginning of the year I approached my Doctor and pleaded for some independence from my chemotherapy week after week, to which she obliged and advised that 2015 could be my year of travel with chemo squeezed in between. It was the best news I had heard in quite some time and immediately booked a trip to Hawaii with Steve-O and planned the trip for Nan and I go travel to the UK together to attend my beautiful cousin’s wedding and share laughs and love with the family over there that we don’t get to see often enough.

The trip was so important to me and I wanted to ensure that I soaked everything in. My Nan in her very own way was my wish-granting factory, as she made the trip happen. Being that we were returning to her home town, I was fortunate enough to visit her previous homes, where she grew up, the house she was born in, the hospital she had my Mum and Auntie Bev in, where my Granddad went to college, where the two of them were married and so much more. Being able to experience England through her eyes was more than my hearts desire and something I will never be able to thank her enough for.

There were endless amounts of stories, laughs, fish and chips, tea and best of all time with family on both my Nan’s side and my Granddad’s side.   My roots are in full force over there and it was lovely to get to know that side of myself so much more. The posh wedding of my cousin, which we attended, has built memories that will last a life time, as well as traveling to Chester, Liverpool and all over the Wirral with my cousin’s and their other halves, of course also visiting London with the best company and seeing each and every friend and family member. Howls were had, love was expressed and England will forever hold the key to my heart. Quite literally, as Nan and I locked our love on Albert Dock in Liverpool and threw the key into the River Mersey. Our loved ones can continue to visit us in Liverpool, even though we may not physically be there, our spirit will always remain.

Since I’ve been back I have been reliving each moment in my head and finding it difficult to write about. My time spent there was so special, that it is difficult to express. I feel rejuvenated and feel I have a new sense of direction for my life.   Suddenly gears have started moving upon my return and from that, fresh goals have emerged. I’m super excited about the future and what it holds and as things get closer, I’ll share more deets.

In the meantime, check out some photos from my trip and watch out for some upcoming projects and collabos. Big Kiss x.

Follow me on Instagram for daily updates: bestillmyheartblog

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Love, Britt x

King Size Bed ♡

Hello, December

Happy December, my friends and for those in the states, I hope Thanksgiving brought warmth into your bellies and hearts. It hardly feels like the Holidays, being that I live in the desert and it was a balmy 87° degrees on the very weekend that Arizona and the rest of the country kicked off the holiday season. Don’t even get me started on how quickly this year has passed. I swear I feel as though I have merely blinked and the year is nearly over. I am also aware that I am not alone in that sentiment. However, clearly I am not here to talk weather or how quickly a single year can pass before our eyes. I just figured I’d check in again.

One thing I didn’t stick to this year was my blog; the very same blog that brought me so much delight, with a pure connection with my readers and allowing for a genuine therapeutic outlet. Admittedly, I fell short of sharing many of my experiences of life with cancer, particularly as a person in her twenties. Yet, you all know and have been so patient and understanding in that I have lacked the “umph” to do much of anything at all.

Over the last few weeks, my so-called “umph” has been restored. Not to discount, of course, that all that ails me continues to do so, being no better or worse than my early days on this cancer journey. In fact my current statuesque is a dash on the unsteady side, as my tumor markers are similar to playing Russian roulette; one week they will be extremely low and there seems to be progress and then the following week they have sky rocketed, where boisterous concerns begin to be flown around. When I visited my Oncologist today, we were going over the different elements to my chemo and the method to madness of it all; taking control over my life and my cancer. Pondering whether the designated treatment is doing it’s job and if my tumors are shrinking or perhaps the opposite and my body and tumors aren’t responding to the chemotherapy, at all. In my case, neither one of those scenarios is my situation. Leave it to me to have unruly tumors that are difficult to pinpoint patterns, their plan and very own method to their madness. We’ve been reviewing my tumor markers bi-weekly to attempt to make sense of it all. One week the markers will be incredibly low, which leads to talks of lowering my chemotherapy and even possibly removing one of the five concoctions all together which would allow for more energy. Then the following week the numbers as I have said earlier, skyrocket leaving everyone, including my Oncologist, a smidgen perplexed as to what the actual situation going on inside of me is.

It makes sense though, because just like everything in life, it’s a mystery. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to make sense of my cancer, nor will I ever be able to make sense of my roller-coaster ride of tumor marker results week over week. Instead, my mind has recently chosen to compartmentalize those things and I have been pushing myself to live the life I daydream about, as I have been laid up in bed for the past year and a half. Be brave, push the limits of my pain and makes strides towards healing the mental tolls that cancer has imparted on me. If you were to ask me how I arrived at this ever-evolving place of newfound energy and peace, I’m not entirely sure if I would be able to pinpoint it. However, a little something is telling me that it began with a little appreciation.

It began with reassessing how I was regarding my appreciation for my surroundings; people, things, places, etc. Once I reevaluated all of those things, it was representative of the life I want and that perhaps I had been taking most things for granted. There was a sudden shift in my mental state. My lack of genuine appreciation to the people in my life, the roof over my head, food on my table and even despite my unfortunate health circumstances, I understood that I am still here, breathing and on the journey that is life. It reminds me of a certain quote by Tony Robbins, “[If you] trade your expectation for appreciation, the world changes instantly.” It truly starts right there.

Pushing myself beyond the limits of my pain has been very challenging. Most of 2014 has been spent in the confines of four walls and a comfy bed. I’m sure to some that may sound very lovely, perhaps a vacation from life. However, as I lay day after day, I couldn’t help but begin to think about life and all of the things I had wished for myself and my dreams to capture the world by it’s heartstrings, but then losing everything I had worked for and still wished for.   I had begun to see the world with a different vision and was maddened by all of the things I didn’t think I was capable of doing or having since being diagnosed as a Stage IV cancer patient. Unsurprisingly, that is a hard pill to swallow and naturally, you wish for a new reality, or no reality at all due to the gloomy reality you are currently in. After such a long period of time and some much needed therapy throughout the later half of the year, it was then that a new reality finally began to sink in. For starters, I became more accepting of my cancer, forgiving of my situation and told myself that if I could find a way out of the gloom, I wouldn’t waste another minute being unhappy or living my life on a king size bed. I began to follow the rhythm of my wild heart and push myself to do things that once made me, me. Spending every day in bed is now something of the past, there are new winds in my sail and I am going to be more grateful for the things I am capable of accomplishing, rather than focusing on things I don’t believe I can do. But, psssst – anything is possible and it’s not bad to think you are capable of it all, because we all are. We are alive, damnit.

That said, as we spend the holiday season amongst friends and family, I will not be taking anything for granted and in the meantime I will continue to push myself beyond my cancer and fight for my place and purpose in this world. A PET scan will be taking place next week to try to gain some insight as to what my tumor(s) are doing and if there is anything to be concerned over. I’m a firm believer that what you think about, you bring about – so only good vibes allowed! As I had mentioned time passes so quickly, I am sure December will fly by and we’ll be ringing in 2015 before we know it! There are plenty of fun things planned for this month, so expect some updates sooner rather than later. As always, thank you for reading and continuing to support me so vigorously, it does not go unnoticed.

Just one last thing, thank you to the lovely anonymous reader who sent me this picture today. It melted my heart.

Fan Drawing

Peace and love always.

Love, Britt x