Many people rely on the hospital to take care of them when they are most ill but the hospital may not provide everything people need when facing a serious disease like cancer. In the sections below cancer survivors provide insight into what you and your support circle can do to access the supports and services you might need at different stages through your cancer journey.
Even before your journey with cancer begins you have a role to play. Many people suspect that something is wrong in their body and ask for tests from their family doctor. Survivors suggest paying attention to warning signs and ensuring your family doctor follows-up.
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Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
Getting a cancer diagnosis and starting to plan for treatment can be stressful and complex, and it often requires quick decision-making. Cancer survivors have some suggestions for you that helped them through this stage.
Your Right to the Best Health Care
Many survivors talk about the tension they felt when they asked their doctor for a second opinion or referral to a specialty cancer hospital like Princess Margaret. Survivors have explained that some doctors may take offense at these requests and this made them feel awkward and sometimes prevented them from getting answers.
These survivors remind you that you have the right to ask questions and talk about access to quality treatment. If your health care team does not seem to respect your right to ask questions and express concerns, it may be time to consider finding someone who is more compatible with your views. You should be at ease speaking with your doctor about any doubts in your cancer care. It is best to do this before treatment begins because once treatment starts, changing health care providers or hospitals can interrupt or delay your treatment.
Not all cancer treatments are paid for by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) or other health plans and some treatments are costly. Being upfront about any concerns you have with paying for treatment is crucial. Some members of your health care team, such as social workers, know about financial supports that are available to help pay for treatment and speaking to them can make the difference between getting help or not. Social workers can connect you with financial support services like Trillium Drug Program and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Health Information Research & Questions
Given that health care providers have very little time to spend with patients, some survivors suggest coming to appointments prepared. Read what you can about the type of cancer you have before your appointments; prepare a list of questions and write them down so you don’t forget. If you are not the sort of person to ask questions, bring a family member or friend who will ask for you. Do not feel bad about asking questions. If the doctor is too busy, ask if there is another health professional you could speak to (for example, a nurse, pharmacist, or dietitian).
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During and After Treatment
Community services and other survivors (peers) have helped many people during and after their cancer treatment.
You can find support through classes and programs for cancer survivors. Finding the right program and support means that you need to be open to the idea that these things may make you feel better. Survivors have told us about the positive effects of yoga, laughing, being around good friends or meeting new people who have or had cancer. What will help you is up to you to explore because everyone is different. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
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