When it comes to health care, you really do hear it all the time. “You have to be your own advocate.” While I don’t condone spending all your time self-diagnosing on the internet and then searching for a doctor who agrees, I do think that you need to know your body. You know when something’s not normal and should make sure that your healthcare team gives it proper attention. But today, I’m speaking more in the customer service realm. The survivorship appointment that’s been repeatedly rescheduled was finally on for Tuesday. (I should say that very few oncologists even offer this type of appointment, so I was excited at the opportunity.) Every time my phone rang with an unfamiliar number in the preceding week, I figured the appointment was off. Just to be sure, I even called to confirm Tuesday morning before leaving the house. I showed up early for my 9am appointment and was called back to get my vitals taken a little after 9. Then at 9:25, the nurse who’d taken my vitals came in and shut the door behind her. Uh-oh. There was a problem, she said, could I reschedule my appointment? Maureen’s schedule should have been blocked, someone made a mistake. No, I could not reschedule, I told her. As respectfully as I could, I explained the difficulty I’d had getting this appointment scheduled, and asked if Maureen was in the office. There was some back and forth as she left the room to figure out what to do, and finally at 9:45, it was decided that Maureen could see me at 10. Was that OK, the office manager who was in listening to my concerns asked? “No, it is not OK. I will wait for 15 more minutes because I’ve already wasted so much time on this appointment, which I think is important. I’m betting many patients would have given up by now and abandoned this all together. I will wait. But not because it is OK that you have made me wait.”
I was pretty livid at the way it was handled. I don’t know who is at fault, and it doesn’t really matter. I made sure that my concerns didn’t go unheard. More than that, I’m not embarrassed with the way I handled it, I was respectful but firm, and in the end, I got what I needed. And I learned a very important lesson of exactly what it means for me to be my own advocate.