Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Who’s the Master and Who’s the Student

**A note of gratitude…This marks  the 600th post on Pilgrim Pathway/Surviving Strong.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me!!**

Everyone wants to think they’re an expert, especially in the field of medicine.  We know that medicine, diseases, and treatments change frequently.  What our bodies are exposed to changes.  What technology provides for treatment changes.  How we gather information propelling forward on our journey to wellness changes.  I say this because there may be times when you have an emergency, or your provider is away and you meet up with a doctor who isn’t as disease savvy as your own…what do you do?

I know that many doctor’s/medical providers may feel threatened because the words “I don’t know” are not usually part of a medical provider’s vocabulary.  I think they choke on the words instead of showing humility.  It can be difficult for many patients to assert themselves in these instances because we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that doctor’s know all, and will guide us in the direction of wellness.

Let’s talk about assertiveness for a moment.  When I was in high school I was part of a team who was asked to serve as hall monitors for night school at the beginning of the school year.  We’d provide the adults with the layout of the school and show them to their classrooms.  I’d be standing in the hallway when a meek mannered individual would approach and ask in an almost whisper, “Can you tell me where the assertiveness training is held?”  Aside from the smirk in my head, I’d show them to the class and report back to my post.  I was amazed and thrilled that so many of these individuals were doing something about the non-assertive nature.

Back to our matter at hand…it’s important to have the capacity to be assertive, not aggressive.  It’s about setting boundaries if the medical provider’s information seems a bit off-base.  It’s fine to ask if there’s a specialist on-call who can serve as a second set of eyes and ears.  It’s legitimate to request from the provider why they are choosing this treatment or medication at this time.  There are some providers who may believe this is questioning their ability; that’s when it’s imperative that you offer the medical provider your expertise.  You’ve been living with this health challenge, and you know your body, so why aren’t you the master and they the student?

The likelihood that you’ll encounter this situation is most likely to happen if you visit an emergency room where the  doctor on-call is from a specialty other than the one that treats your specific health challenge.  In many cases, specialists who deal with chronic and life-altering diseases practice in groups to help us, the patient’s, avoid this type of situation.  One other place this shift in master and student might occur is if you’re traveling and you’re out of reach of your usual provider.  Don’t be afraid to ask them to contact your own physician (be assertive)…trust me they’ll understand and in many cases they’ll be thankful.

You are the master when it comes to dealings about your own body.  If you pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual barometers you’ll be able to navigate your way assertively to health and healing.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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