Be Empowered to Advocate for Yourself in the Doctor’s Office
Advocating for yourself in the doctor’s office can sometimes be the difference between life or death. I know, that may sound dramatic, but it’s the truth.
You’re sitting in the doctor’s office, your doctor notices something abnormal, so they decide to do further tests.
Your test is sent off to the lab. “It’s going to take about one week to get your test results,” the doctor shares. Of course—lucky you! You get to spend the next week wondering if you’re sick or infected, or if this is just a false alarm.
The phone rings, it’s the nurse calling to give you your results. They hit you with that vague “It looks like this may be serious, we are going to need you to come back in for further testing.”
Cue: cold sweats and stomach drop.
You immediately Google your symptoms and possible diagnosis and, of course, whatever may be going on may be fatal. Because what else would you expect from the internet?
Many of us have here, but don’t sweat, you’re in good company because it happens to the best of us. And if you do happen to never go through this—lucky, lucky you.
Unfortunately, I have gone through this. And, in that moment I realized we must not be afraid to ask our doctors questions. In order to do that effectively, we must come well-read and prepared.
The first thing to know: it’s not a myth, studies show that as black women, we are less likely to be trusted by our doctors. If a medical team will doubt Serena Williams, one of the world’s most elite athletes, don’t think for a second they won’t doubt you.
After birthing her daughter via an emergency c-section, Serena developed a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. She could feel something was wrong and told her nurse her symptoms. Her nurse thought her pain medicine was making her confused and didn’t believe her. Luckily, Serena advocated for herself and is here today to tell her story.
…like I said before, the difference between life and death.
We know Serena’s story because she is lucky enough to have the public platform to shout it to the masses. And, thanks to Serena, many women are taking to the internet to share their own stories and build awareness—Jonell Jaime Logan from Charlotte, Patrina Powell from Brooklyn, Bonita Rush from Indian Trail, and next…maybe you?
Together, let’s stop this. You don’t deserve to fall victim to this—nobody does. This problem stems from overtly discriminating treatment and the systemic oppression of Black women, which we must work to change. We cannot allow health professionals to treat us differently. We must be empowered to advocate for ourselves in the doctor’s office.
The next time you go to the doctor, go prepared. Check out a few of my tips below:
Tip #1: Trust your gut. Only you truly know how you feel or what symptoms you are experiencing. Even if a doctor tells you your symptoms aren’t important nor relevant, insist your doctor take the appropriate measures to address your concerns.
Tip #2: Find a doctor whose opinion you trust. Try building relationships with your doctors, so that when you need them, they are on your side ready for battle. If things aren’t clicking and you still feel uncomfortable, find someone else. And, you can always check out the local Planned Parenthood or neighborhood clinic for high-quality, affordable care.
Tip #3: As a Black woman, it is completely natural to want a Black doctor or at least someone who has invested in understanding Black women’s bodies and is culturally literate. You may be more comfortable opening up to someone who you feel understands you.
Tip #4: Always get a second opinion. If your doctor is suggesting you take a drastic action that could change your life forever, don’t simply say yes. Do more research and consult a few other doctors before making a final decision. Evaluate the consistencies and differences between the varying medical advice you’ve received, and move on from there.
Tip #5: Go to your doctor prepared to ask questions. Do some background research on the matter at hand. Doctors are a resource to you, and should act as such.
We are brave, we are strong. And, when it comes to our health, we must be empowered to stand up for ourselves and never take no for an answer.