The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

I am excited to welcome my friend Victoria Buker as a guest blogger. Victoria and I have known each other for years as cyberfriends, but we’re planning to finally meet when we do the 140 Over 90 Run next summer in Melbourne, Fla., to raise awareness of and support for people experiencing preeclampsia. Victoria can be very persuasive. It’s because of her that I ended up being a faux “toreador” in Savannah when I ran the Bridge Run seven years ago (most team members were toreadors, and one “lucky” runner got to navigate going over the Savannah bridge three times wearing a HUGE bull head.)

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

Victoria ended up not being able to participate (hence our inability to meet), but she made sure I felt like I had team members and didn’t have to do the event alone. She has turned her ability to persuade to a new cause these days: helping educate people about preeclampsia, something she experienced after her daughter was born (preeclampsia can happen postpartum too). Now she has created the 140 Over 90 Run and I’m among a great team of ambassadors. You can read about Victoria’s post-delivery experience here. For today, I asked her to focus on medical self-advocacy, because learning to advocate for herself saved her life.

Victoria’s ABCs of medical self-advocacy

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

Never in a million years did I think it would take every ounce of strength I had to learn to advocate properly for myself. I was 9 days postpartum and for those nine days after the amazing birth of our spunky daughter, I felt like I was dying.

And I was right.

I was developing severe postpartum preeclampsia, partial HELLP syndrome, and an infection that was trending septic. My body was fighting hard, my blood pressure was rising fast (218/118) and my pulse was dropping. I was almost sent home from the emergency room (common because postpartum preeclampsia is super rare) with Tylenol for my headache.

“Can I please have an OB see me?”, I mustered.

I had just saved my own life.

Through this pain, I found a passion …
… a passion for learning how to advocate better for me and my health.

So let me break down what has worked for me into three easy steps — easy as ABC.

A – Ask Questions

I get it. Doctors and providers don’t sit and linger for a chat during appointments, but I bet they would if they could. So help steer the conversation. For example, if you are going to a follow-up at your internist and are discussing blood pressure and your A1C, researching and bringing questions with you from the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association plus others will help guide your conversation.

In my case, when I was told I would be on blood pressure medicine for the rest of my life, I wanted to research other options. I sourced from medical journals, various medical foundations, documentaries, podcasts, health coaches, referrals to dieticians, etc. I asked my doctor if he was comfortable with giving me a year to correct my body while on medication and seeing how my blood pressure and other biomarkers looked through a more whole-body approach. By giving my plan of action, with the tools I wanted to use coupled with medication, I was given the green light to try.

And let me tell you, I ran across that finish line at a year weaned off medication (at 11.5 months) with all biomarkers back in “normal” ranges. Asking questions, for me, helped me be in control of my health and my journey.

B- Be Proactive

“Be proactive” really is in harmony with “ask questions,” but then there would be no “B” in my ABCs. Thanks to the worldwide web, you have a plethora of resources at your fingertips 24-7. Facebook support groups, social networks, digital libraries, access to medical peer-reviewed journals, etc. Take time to learn and dig deep into the conversation, medical procedure or prescribed treatment, so you feel comfortable with your health journey. Not all bodies are created the same and not all treatments work on all bodies.

To also help with “be proactive, be-be proactive” (any former cheerleaders out there? no … ok … moving on), I keep a highlight reel of my medications, labs, questions, treatments, diagnoses etc in a google document that is easy to share, read, and reach as needed for appointments. For me, this helps streamline everything especially when the mom-brain kicks in.

While being proactive, I found great support in the online preeclampsia and plant-based communities. I was amazed at the research I found that helped me solidify the why behind what was happening to my body and my reasoning for going plant-based(i)h} to help with the blood pressure, kidney, liver and A1C issues I had due to pregnancy/preeclampsia.

C- Communicate & Community

Communicate your needs and find a community, both within your medical providers and beyond. I will actually be having my Integrative Medical Doctor/Health Coach on my podcast to chat about the benefits of a well-rounded medical team and how to coordinate that.

Personally, I have about 10 practitioners on my team and that was super beneficial to me taking charge of my health. Mine range from my Internist to a health coach!

Not one person has all the answers.

Most doctors can say, “eat healthy, and exercise.” But do you know how you will do that? Do you need a dietician on your team or a personal trainer/group fitness instructor or health coach to reach your goals? What about a therapist or yoga instructor?

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

I hope these ABC’s help you when you are faced with more than a check-up.

Happy Healthy Advocating!

I would love to hear if this is helpful! Send me an email at vtbuker@gmail.com or pop onto my Facebook Page, Victoria Buker, Coach and Consultant.

About the 140 Over 90 Run

From Paula: Please let me know if you have any questions about the 140 Over 90 Run. It’s available as a virtual option. And lest you feel any athletic pressure of any kind, that is not what is happening here! I’ll be walking and there is a plan to make sure every participant feels supported (that’s important to me, having finished last my share of times over the years). You can save $5 off your entry fee with the code PAULAMOVES5.

The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

2 thoughts on “The ABCs of medical self-advocacy

  1. I had preeclampsia while pregnant and I trusted my OB…I made it through but I think I would have had a lot better experience overall, both during my pregnancy and during my labor and delivery with the proper knowledge. This was pre-Internet. I was hospitalized for a week before I gave birth as there was concern my kidneys were failing (and was unsuccessfully induced twice – when I finally went into labor on my own they said I had to be induced again because I had already been induced, what?!) I did learn a lot more about self advocacy over the years. I agree with all your guest’s bullet points!! We must take charge of our own health and trust our own instincts.

    • Oh my goodness. Thanks for sharing. The internet is a blessing and a curse, but with things like preeclampsia, I think it is invaluable for information and support. Thanks for chiming in.

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