Becoming a patient advocate can be rewarding and fulfilling; they help others navigate the complex world of healthcare. Being diagnosed with cancer is a scary thing you can’t prepare for. It is a massive disruption to your life, filled with doctor visits, tests, scans, unfamiliar terminology, surgeries, etc. All these factors bring on stress, and having support is vital. Patient advocates are remarkable individuals who bless others with their guidance and support. They are essential in helping patients and their families communicate with healthcare providers to understand treatments and medications and offer support from personal experience.
Here are three ways to get started as a patient advocate within the cancer community:
- Start with your own experience: This is exactly how I became an advocate. I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma. I had to create a path of my own due to the lack of information available and me not being the “typical” peritoneal mesothelioma patient. I felt I had no choice but to become my own advocate if I wanted to beat cancer. I quickly realized that many gaps in the healthcare system needed to be addressed, and I became passionate about advocating for change. It has been one of the best decisions I have made and continues to be rewarding because I get to help others by offering hope and inspiration from my story. If you or someone you know has been affected by cancer, you can use that experience to become an advocate for others. You can share your story, start a blog or a support group, or find ways to help others who are going through similar experiences.
- Volunteer with a cancer organization: Several reputable healthcare organizations prioritize patient advocacy and work towards improving healthcare. Start with one specifically for your diagnosed cancer, and then branch out. Volunteering with one of these organizations can offer an excellent opportunity to learn about patient advocacy and become involved in meaningful work. You can gain valuable experience and knowledge about the healthcare industry and patients’ challenges. I have several fellow advocates whose volunteer role paved the way for future career opportunities.
- Network & More Networking: Many conferences and events focus on patient advocacy and provide opportunities to learn from experts in the field. Attending these events can help you stay current on the latest developments in patient advocacy and connect with others who share your passion. Use social media to find these organizations and fellow cancer survivors. I use social media to stay connected with the cancer community. It’s a great way to stay in the know, be made aware of events and meet new survivors.
Throughout the years, I have collaborated with cancer organizations as a spokesperson and writer, sharing my story on social media. It has been such a fulfilling experience that I plan to continue doing it. I encourage anyone passionate about patient advocacy to participate in any way they can. I am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of those who are fighting cancer. Through commitment and hard work, anyone can become a patient advocate and create a significant change in the lives of others.
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