Transformation of a Reluctant Patient to a Proactive Health Advocate

Transformation of a Reluctant Patient to a Proactive Health Advocate

Tamkin Khan
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 4
DOI: 10.4018/ijudh.2013010109
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‘Transformation of a reluctant patient to a proactive health advocate’ is the story of the gradual makeover of a proud and isolated person diagnosed with ovarian cancer fighting her own lonely battle to a positive, upbeat, proactive health advocate passionately involved in helping other patients, their doctors and the community as a whole fight this war. The story gives us a lot of insight into the ‘human face’ of ovarian cancer and is a good resource material for a medical humanities module.
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Transformation Of A Reluctant Patient

Any narrative by a patient or her doctor may be a way of getting rid of the unpleasant experience and serves as a catharsis. Or it may be a way of connecting back to others from the isolation of illness. As care givers we get new insight into the patients’ perspective of seeing things, interpreting our actions and our words. (Deborah & Kasman, 2004) As we connect we develop a better relationship with our patients. The narrative serves as completing the healing for the patient as well as moulding us into better healers (Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999). Narratives can be used as a very good resource material for a medical humanities module to sensitise students to some very important issues like professionalism, empathy, communication skills, ethics and importance of integrative medicine (Brett-MacLean, 2007).

The journey described is extra-ordinary, the transformation dramatic and forces one to marvel at the indomitable human spirit and endeavour even in the face of adversity and against all odds.

The author has, in a very natural, non-judgemental and sensitive manner drawn our attention to certain aspects of health care delivery, affordability and research. I would like to highlight and raise certain issues for us to reflect upon and make us more compassionate human beings and better role models for our students.

When her story starts she is a self sufficient fifty nine year old, divorced lady living alone and proud of it! She is sceptical and disillusioned of modern/western medicine because of her past encounters and is at risk of neglecting herself and delaying her diagnosis of ovarian cancer until she is pushed into seeking a consultation by her friend. Here lies the importance of making each encounter for our patient a pleasant experience. This determines the success of our healthcare programmes especially that of preventive care and screening procedures.

Fortunately her disillusionment with modern medicine is short lived because her subsequent encounters are quite positive --- they save her life, give her life a new course as she recounts.

As she is diagnosed with a malignant ovarian lump she could understand from her doctors’ spoken and unspoken words that there was something really, seriously wrong with her. She is referred to an expert oncology surgeon by her gynaecologist—the referring doctor speaks highly about the surgeon. This stays in her subconscious mind when she recounts ‘That same night, I had a dream where a voice said, Make sure he gets it all.’ What is more surprising is that the next day when she goes to see her surgeon he repeats the same words “I want to make sure I get it all Coincidence, intuition or telepathy whatever way we explain it but this makes a big difference to her attitude towards her illness. It somehow makes her believe that she is in the right hands and she will be cured- importance of a doctors image and reputation and the importance of certain sentences we utter knowingly or knowingly which determine a patient’s behaviour and attitude and ultimately the outcome of illness. Her surgeon is as involved and concerned about fighting the disease as if it was his own personal war and this spirit of fighting the disease rubs off on to the patient.

The next part of the narration deals about her fears, dilemmas and reactions to her care givers and others’ reactions towards her illness. ‘I was scared, vulnerable and uncertain about this health crisis with no medical insurance. This was not a situation where I could pretend everything was fine and hold myself together. Sometimes life leaves us no other choice but to change the way we act’. Illness left her no choices but to reach out to people and accept help.

On the day of the surgery two things helped ease her pain—the cheerful, bright, helpful nurses and anaesthesia which eased her pain and anxiety. One important thing we learn here is the importance of positive suggestions. While the patient was returning back to consciousness she heard her caregivers saying--“She looks good” which made her believe she would recover fully. ‘Operating room whispers’ as we call them can affect the patient both positively and negatively and hence the importance of being very careful about what we discuss and talk amongst ourselves while in the Operating Room.

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