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This article is from Coping With Cancer Magazine May 2003 publication and is excerpted from Otherwise Healthy - A Planner to Focus Your Thoughts on Organizing Life After Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer by Lynda Shrager, 2000 by At The pond Publishing. Visit or call (518) 475-1792

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you are thrown into a world of second opinions, diagnostic tests, invasive procedures, surgeries, medications and medical personnel. You are constantly being bombarded by new and unfamiliar information that needs to be processed and acted upon in some way.

To help deal with this overwhelming experience you may find it helpful to create detailed lists for every task that needs to be accomplished. The following checklist can help you organize the chaos:

  • Review your health insurance coverage:
    • Request a "case manager" - a representative assigned to your case for the duration of your treatment.  When contacting your insurer, always ask for this person by name to facilitate consistency  and create a 'bond' with this critical player in your medical scenario.
    • Maintain detailed records of all conversations with insurance personnel - day, time, with whom you spoke,  a synopsis of the conversation, and .ask for a reference number
    • Understand the limitations and restrictions of your coverage.

  • Prepare to undergo various diagnostic tests:
    • Obtain the direct phone number for the scheduling personnel and learn their names.
    • Schedule tests early in the day to avoid later day back-ups that often occur. This will avoid lengthen of pre-test anxiety time.
    • Determine where all previous test results (slides, films, etc) are stored. Note the named of the contact personnel and their phone numbers to assist in accessing your records. Make sure previous tests are on hand to compare to the new results.

  • Research your specific diagnosis, its potential effects on your body, who treats it and how:
    • Don't be overwhelmed with the magnitude of information out there. Your own doctors, people who have been in your situation, and the major cancer organizations will help you to hone in on the most pertinent information.
    • Network. Talk to people who have "been there." Empower yourself with knowledge.

  • Get a second opinion:
    • Obtain all necessary insurance approvals and referrals to ensure maximum coverage and reimbursement.
    • Establish who your contact person is at the 'second opinion' facility and ascertain exactly what you need to bring with you. You may be able to lighten the load by sending some information in advance of your visit. Since test results are a measurements of change from the previous baseline test, never run the risk of sending , and possibly losing original slides and films.
    • Prepare detailed questions ahead of time and present them to your doctor at the beginning of the visit. he can then gear the conversation toward answering your questions and discussing your concerns throughout the visit, rather than be faced with a long list of issues when the allotted time is up.
    • Bring a detailed medical history.

  • Complete ordered tests in advance of your doctor's appointment and call to make sure that your doctor has received your test results

          Prepare a list of daily tasks that people can help you accomplish:

  • Match a task with a "helper," noting his or her name , phone number and availability.
  • Organize the "information dispersers - a group of close friend and family who will be updated daily on the situation and who will then be responsible to keep the rest  of the world informed of the news. This will avoid the incessant ring of the telephone and free you up to spend time with family.
  • Organize the meals your friends have volunteered to deliver so you do not end up eating lasagna every night.
  • Should you be "down and out" for a few days, fill out 'pick-up' forms and medical releases for your children and have them ready to hand to your 'kid coverage' designee.

  • Understand all the aspects of your specific treatment plan:
    • Know the possible side effects of your treatment  and keep track of those you experience. List the exact dosages of all drugs you are taking - including chemotherapy agents, prescriptions, over-the- counter and natural herbal remedies.
    • Plan activities by plotting "good vs. bad"  days according to your particular treatment schedule.
    • Plot out medications taken at home on a daily calendar.

  • Create a schedule of follow-up visits and medical tests at specifically approved time intervals to ensure coverage by your health insurers.

Organize the Chaos Duing Chemotherapy/Cancer Treatment
... 2000 by At The Pond Publishing. Visit or call
(518)475-1792. Organize the Chaos! by Lynda Shrager.

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