Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year, New Advocate You

Another January is here, and New Year's resolutions abound.

So, with this new year and new decade and this first blog column of 2010, I am suggesting five resolutions that you should make and follow through on.

I am not referring to the latest crash diet or super-fix-it exercise regimen. I am referring to something requiring more courage and determination: Taking care of your health through being your own best medical advocate. Here then are the resolutions:

1. Resolve to make an appointment for a complete physical (including bloodwork and, well, the works).

2. Resolve to ask your doctor two questions during the appointment.

3. Resolve to give your doctor an emotional prompt to measure his/her level of empathy. For example, rather than just saying "Yes, I need this mole checked out," you could say "I need this mole checked out, and I'm very concerned [worried, afraid, etc.]."

4. Resolve to followup with the said doctor via phone to discuss results, future health goals, etc.

5. Resolve to eat sensibly (instead of fad diets, consider lifestyle changes [more fruits and veggies; low-fat, high fiber diets, etc.) and exercise reasonably.

I practice what I preach. In about an hour, I'm leaving to see my first doctor of 2010. I will have two questions, an emotional prompt, and a followup interaction. I already do No. 5.

By the way, given my past health crises, it's no wonder I hate making and going to doctor appointments (although I love my doctors). But I'm going to go through the motions and try to be patient with being a patient.

Make your call and show up. If I can, you can, too.

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at, and her cat Hemi blogs at Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World's Strongest Librarian at

She can be contacted at and


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