Defining Self-Advocacy

September 7, 2016
older white woman smiling softly

What does it mean to be a self-advocate?  When we think of an advocate, we generally think of someone who is publicly supporting some policy or cause.  So, how can you be an advocate for yourself? 

To be a self-advocate when living with cancer means taking a measure of control over your cancer care and making your decisions along with your medical team and loved ones.  A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming with all of the medical jargon and numerous treatment options. Sometimes it can seem easier to allow your doctor to take the lead on treatment decisions because of their medical knowledge and background. Your doctor may know what works in general, but that does not mean that your doctor knows what is best for you personally, based on your values and lifestyle. Researchers at the Cancer Support Community’s Research and Training Institute have found that the more actively you participate in your cancer care decision-making, the more likely you are to have a better experience and potentially better outcomes. 

Self-advocating begins with arming yourself with the tools and skills necessary to feel comfortable asserting yourself; continues with communicating your situation and needs clearly; and finally, leads to making decisions and taking action. 

We know that this all can seem difficult, and we are not usually accustomed to advocating for ourselves, so we created a 7-Day Challenge to give some concrete steps you can take to start self-advocating.  Starting next Monday, September 12th, we will be posting a new challenge each day on our social media accounts. These challenges are designed to help cancer patients think through some of the ways they can proactively impact their cancer care. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to join in.  This challenge has been designed so that you can participate at any time, and you don’t have to do each daily challenge in order.  There is a challenge overview that you can use at any time to challenge yourself to self-advocate.  Feel free to pick and choose the challenges you wish to participate in and begin your self-advocacy journey! 

Being a self-advocate does not have to be complicated or overwhelming.  Following the basic steps of seeking information about your cancer, communicating with those around you, and taking action in your cancer journey can work towards making your cancer experience more manageable and tailored to your needs.  Stay tuned for next week’s blog to learn more about seeking information as a self-advocacy tool!