Thursday, September 4, 2014

Don't Hate...Advocate!

Somebody should really work with me on improving my blog-titling skillz.

Advocacy.  It's something I didn't really think much about until recently.  And mostly when I consider it, I think in terms of advocating for others...the poor, the marginalized, etc.  But advocating for ourselves has been on my mind a lot lately.

It all started with a tiny health scare--some changes in a breast that were worrying me.  So after about a month, I called some people.  The lactation consultant said she didn't think it was breastfeeding related.  My OB said he didn't think it was anything.  I went home feeling better.  For a few days.  Until I got that nagging feeling that something was just not right--I still had questions that hadn't been answered.  To cut right to the chase, I had some further testing done and it doesn't look like anything serious.  We still don't know what it is, but have done our due diligence in terms of breast cancer screening and things of that nature. 

But the point of this whole post is about being your own advocate.  It really felt silly.  I consulted with a breast cancer survivor and friend of mine and did a lot of reading and all signs pointed to getting a second opinion and leaving no stone unturned.  But I was too sheepish to call my OB back and ask for some more in-depth analysis.  So I called a random office and scheduled an appointment with a doc I'd never seen before.  And even though everything is turning out just like my OB suggested in the first place, I'm so glad I made the second call.  Because what if?

I think that we are often too afraid to challenge someone who is an expert in their field!  I have had multiple occasions where, hindsight being what it is, I wished I had been brave enough to question the first decision or suggestion made by a health care provider.  The birth of my first baby and the decision to have a C-section, some poor breastfeeding advice from the hospital, and the lack of weight gain of our little baby Emma being among those that stand out in the forefront of my memory.
And not just in medicine!  In the last couple of years we have been seeking some solutions for Emma's struggles in school.  And even though Mike and I both have degrees in education and were educators in our own public school system, we still found ourselves "at odds" with the schools from time to time.  The systems in place don't really work for a kid like Emma, and we have had to be very adamant about what we know (we really know!) is best for her.  After one of her recent 504 plan meetings, we talked about how difficult it would be for a family with no teaching experience to muddle through the complicated maze that is the IEP/504 plan system in education.  And how if you are told by classroom teachers, special educators, and principals that "X" is the way to go about things, you are likely to agree just because they are the experts and you are not.  But what if there really is a better way?  

Sweet baby Emma!  Doesn't it look like somebody should get that kid a taco or something?
Again, it all comes down to advocacy.  And I firmly believe that teachers, principals, doctors, nurses and the like are doing their very best for us.  Absolutely they are!  Nobody goes into health care or education so they can "pull a fast one."  That's why it feels so weird to question and second guess!  I do like a good TV medical drama and I can Google my symptoms with the best of them, but does it make me qualified to doubt the experts?  From now on, I think my answer to that question is yes.  If my gut tells me that something is wrong, yes.  Because I have had times when my gut said, "Stop!  Something's not right here!"  And I didn't listen because I was too afraid to call the expert into question.  And I really, really wish that I would have.  Even though all of my second and third opinions turned out the same as the first in this case, I am so glad that I got it checked thoroughly just for my own peace of mind.

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