Take the right person with you to medical appointments


In a recent article, I encouraged people with cancer to take someone with them when they went to important medical appointments. When you hear the words, “You have cancer,” you tend to have trouble remembering anything else.

Today, I want to suggest who to take with you on those appointments.

Take someone who listens more than talks. Their job is to take notes and help you remember what was said.

They can also help you get ready for appointments by writing down and prioritizing the questions that you most want to ask.

What you don’t want is someone who’s eager to debate the doctor about the merits of a particular therapy or cancer treatment in general.

Bob Riter
Bob Riter

You want your helper to help you, not be an activist for a particular point of view.

Medical interpreters help in situations in which the patient and the health care provider speak different languages. The interpreters are trained to be neutral. They aren’t there to advocate – they’re there to assist in communication.

This is a good model whenever you bring someone to an appointment with you. Their role is to help you understand what the providers are saying and to help you express your wishes.

Bringing a loved one with you to appointments is natural. Some loved ones are good at listening and gently supporting the person with cancer. Other loved ones, by force of personality or by their own sense of distress, tend to get in the way. They talk too much and confuse their wishes with the patient’s wishes.

When that happens, bring someone else. What you need is a designated listener.


Reprinted with Permission from the Ithaca Journal
Publication Date: January 26, 2016

Bob Riter is the Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. He can be reached at [email protected]

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