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Published on October 19, 2017

Becky Johnson and daughter Athena

Be Your Own Advocate

Why patients are a key member of the cancer care team

There are many members of the cancer care team, from medical oncologists to surgeons, radiation oncologists, navigators, nurses and the list goes on. Yet one of the most important team members is the patient.

While your team will always vouch for your treatment and your care, it’s important that you advocate for yourself, too. Remember, the more people striving toward the best outcome for YOU, the better your outcome.

“As cancer caregivers, we encourage patients to seek out information, to become educated through reputable sources and websites, and ask plenty of questions,” said Susan Deibert, RN, BSN, Nurse Manager for Medical Oncology at Avera Cancer Institute in Aberdeen.

Becky Johnson of Aberdeen was identified as being high risk for breast cancer. During breast MRI – a special test often recommended for women at high risk – a lump was discovered in her left breast, which turned out to be stage II breast cancer.

Because of her status as high risk, and as the mother of two active kids, ages 10 and 16, “we wanted to treat it aggressively,” said Johnson, who opted for a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

“My husband and I were good readers, looking up and reading clinical studies from medical journals. And then we would approach our doctor based on what we found, saying, ‘OK, you’re telling me this, here’s my question as to what I read,’” Johnson said.

“You really do have a lot of choices,” Johnson said. For example, she’s choosing to wait five years before having reconstruction surgery to make sure all the cancer is gone. “Not everyone would choose what I did, but it’s my choice.”

For Johnson, the choice of where to receive cancer care was also important to her.

“We have a wonderful cancer center in Aberdeen. I wanted to be mom and be home around my kids, and participate in their activities as much as possible. I had an amazing cancer care team here,” Johnson said.

“Do things that make you feel comfortable,” added Johnson. “As long as it fits into your treatment, you might have a lot of options within your care plan.”

Ways You Can Be Your Own Advocate During Cancer Treatment

  • Exploring all possible treatment options
  • Learning as much as you can about your diagnosis, prescribed medications and insurance coverage
  • Contacting the hospital if you have any questions regarding your bill, diagnosis, treatment schedule, etc.
  • Accepting help from family and friends when they offer; remember, you’re never alone
  • Setting up a feasible work schedule with your employer that accommodates your treatment plan

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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