Thanks to the Fundy Wellness Network and other like-minded organizations, there is no shortage of information on how to get healthy and stay healthy. Although we may falter at times, we know we should eat well, exercise, maintain a positive attitude and stay close to friends and family.
Occasionally despite our best efforts to remain well, we end up quite the opposite. If we’re lucky, we are down with a cold or the flu and then rebound quickly. Much less often (thankfully) we find ourselves dealing with something more serious and discover our lives turned upside down as a result.
It’s not pleasant to think about, but if you’ve ever been sick or had a loved one fall ill, you understand the tremendous impact of illness on a life. Whom do you talk to? Where do you turn? How do get what you need? Feelings of helplessness can knock us for a loop, making it difficult to bounce back.
In my past life as an advocate with a local health charity, I was often in touch with people who were grappling with these very questions. My job was to convince the provincial government to put policies and programs in place to protect the health of New Brunswickers. However, I spent as much time responding to calls from individuals who were struggling to pay for medications and had no idea where to find help. I was often a personal advocate as well as a professional one and quite honestly, it was the best part of my job.
With each conversation, I learned some important lessons on sticking up for yourself and protecting your health:
1. Call in all your favours. Now. Ask for help. Your friends and family feel helpless and want to lend a hand. Let them.
2. Understand you are worthy of answers and support. You are not intruding. Ask a million questions of your health care providers if you need to. That’s why they are there.
3. If there is any way your MLA can play a role, do not hesitate to visit, call or e-mail them. They are paid to help their constituents (you!) find answers.
4. It is absolutely true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I’ve seen a single, passionate person accomplish more over a shorter period of time than a large, well-oiled organization.
5. When in doubt, re-read #4.
Even the strongest and most self-assured among us may falter in the face of serious illness. I will continue to do everything I can to stay in good health, but if I ever get that piece of bad news, you can bet I’ll be knocking on every door in town. We all need to be our own best advocates.
Ellen Snider works as a consultant in communications and media relations. She lives in Rothesay with her husband, two sons, dog, cat and hedgehog.