An Advocate’s Tale: Lessons From My Clients

Yesterday I spent the day with Allan while he got his chemotherapy and steroid infusion at his oncologist’s office.  The office has a large separate designated infusion room with 10 semi comfortable recliners.  Once a week Allan goes for his steroid infusion and monthly also receives chemotherapy.  The chemo day takes  six hours or more.  I was there to support Allan through the process.

It is an amazing experience sitting in a room with eight other people receiving chemotherapy.  I was taken by the fact that Allan was the youngest in this group.  Most people were older.  I was struck by the amount of courage it took to sit and receive such powerful medications.It isn’t a walk in the park.  The woman sitting in the next recliner told me how hard it was to come each week.  She was always so anxious and scared but somehow managed to make it.  During the week, she couldn’t drive past the building and she  would go out of her way to avoid it.  She had relapsed and was on her second round of chemo.  She had hope it would work.

I felt very humbled to sit in the room as people went on this journey.  When my role was a practitioner, I didn’t get these opportunities.  I was seeing patients, and following up.  I would try to make time to chat but it wasn’t always part of the routine.  As a practitioner, I was on the move!  I created barriers mostly so I could keep doing what was needed.

In my role as an advocate, I am able to experience different aspects of healthcare from the patient’s view.  I thought I was an expert because of my training and practice and that is why I decided to do this work. I have learned it was not enough. Now, I sometimes get to walk in the shoes of the patient.  It is this experience that enriches my ability to be an advocate.

My final lesson of the day was taking Allan to the car in his wheelchair.  His wife met us outside.  I had helped him before but this time after he was in the care, I went to put the chair in the trunk. It was heavy and bulky.  His wife who is shorter and lighter than me, saved the day.  She showed me how to put it in and proceeded to plop it in the trunk.