When Ricky White reached out to me asking if I’d like to review his book “Taking Charge. Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You”, my answer was hell yeah!.
I love reading resources that may be helpful to my community. Doctor’s appointments can be overwhelming and frustrating and I know exactly how that can feel.
This subject is one that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve written HealthCentral articles like how to field your healthcare dream and how to search for the perfect doctor and have taught coaching sessions on the importance of tracking your symptoms. I even had the opportunity to present a case study of how I created my own healthcare team and unlocked my health by tracking my symptoms at Stanford Medicine X in September 2016. Click here to watch a replay of the session.
From a young age, my mom always kept track of my health. In fact, I have a whole binder full of handwritten medical notes dating back to when I was born. But, what I didn’t realize, until my late 20’s, is that I truly had to be a partner with my medical team. I had to take responsibility for my own health. I had to do my own research. And I had to put in the work if I wanted to find the missing pieces to my health puzzle.
It is hard work. And many times when we don’t feel well, we don’t necessarily have the energy to put in the work. Most of the times there aren’t straight forwards answers to our problems. I know, at least for me, that was the case. Hell, it took going to doctor and doctor to truly be able to put it all together.
“Okay, I’ll be honest with you. What you will not find in this book is a magic formula or a quick fix to getting the kind of care you deserve. It just doesn’t work like that. I’m sure you knew that anyway, right?” Ricky White, Taking Charge. Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You
I love how Ricky starts off with this statement. It’s true, many of us Westerners look for quick fixes to our health problems. But he’s right. If you want whole health, there’s no magic bullet or pill to take that will alleviate all of your symptoms.
When I had “The great flare up of 2012”, I blindly trusted my doctors at first.
He said I needed surgery, I scheduled it. He said I needed another one 2 months later, so I scheduled it.
He said there was nothing wrong with me, so I took the Percocets he prescribed and became a zombie to the world.
He said I had Avascular Necrosis and probably would need a knee replacement – so that’s the option I went looking for.
My rheumatologist said that my psoriatic arthritis symptoms would need another pill to help manage them, so I trusted and added another prescription to my list.
It wasn’t until I had a prescription list of 9 pills + 2 injections long that I realized enough was enough! I needed to take control and do something about this. So, I made the commitment to myself to seek out my best life. And that meant taking charge and working WITH my doctors on my health. Breaking down the barriers and doing whatever it takes.
We all have certain barriers when it comes to medical appointments which may hinder us from utilizing it to the best of our ability. I love how Ricky talks about different barriers in his book. Medical jargon, transportation, focus, anxiety – he goes into many different ones in his book.
The one that really resonated with me was the “Aiming for different goals” barriers. Sure, my doctors wanted to help me. But, at the end of the day, they didn’t live in my body. They didn’t understand the fatigue and pain I was experiencing. Therefore, how could they understand how much I was suffering. And because they couldn’t understand that, how could they understand that I truly needed something other than medicine to help cut down on my inflammation.
They wanted to prescribe my drugs and send me on my way – because that’s what they knew.
But they didn’t know my goals were not to rely on medication. They didn’t know that my goals were to get back to living a quality life. They didn’t know I still wanted to live my BEST life possible, despite any diagnosis.
It truly wasn’t until I overcame this barrier, and spoke up, that they began to listen and understand.
I loved hearing about the differences (and the similarities) between the UK and American medical systems. Ricky is an expatriate from the UK and brings a great perspective as someone who has worked as a nurse AND is an Ankylosing Spondylitis patient. Reading about the worst appointment he ever had made me reflect on some pretty bad ones that I’ve had.
One time my pain doctor told me to stop crying and being so dramatic because I wasn’t fooling him. I wanted to be like, “Oh I’m sorry – did you think I was putting on an act for you?”
Or perhaps the appointment when I was basically told that I should walk on crutches for 10 years until my knee completely collapsed, THEN (and only then) should I get a knee replacement.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but all the bad advice and the bad experiences I had helped pave the way for me to overcome the barriers I had to find my healing path.
This book is full of practical tips – ways to prepare for your appointments, questions to ask your doctor, what not to say to your doctors, how you should dress, how to effectively communicate with your doctor (including positive vs negative body language), building confidence to talk to your doctor, how to record your appointments and SO much more. Infused with Ricky’s experience on both sides of the convo, you really get a holistic view of how to attack your healthcare appointments.
There’s even a chapter on how to appropriately reflect on your appointment. I LOVED this tip. I do this somewhat, as I write down a summary of how the appointment went and how I’m feeling about it post-visit. But the way Ricky broke it down makes it even more useful and accessible. He even has downloadable resources (checklists, to-do’s, the reflective model, and more!) on his site that accompany the book.
To me, taking charge of my appointments and documenting all of my symptoms were the keys to figuring out how to unlock healing in my body.
“It still amazes me sometimes, the amount of work that we may have to put into a 10-to-15-minute appointment. There’s potentially a lot to do beforehand, let alone during and after. If you’re feeling overwhelmed now by the amount of information I’ve thrown at you in a short time, that’s okay. There is a lot to remember. I remember feeling overwhelmed once, too. What is important to realize is that this won’t all happen in your next appointment. Maybe not even your next ten. It’s going to take time to get used to using anything new you have picked up from this book. You shouldn’t expect to make it all happen at once. My advice would be to pick one to three new things to do for your next appointment. Start small and build up. Then, at each subsequent appointment, add one more. If you try to do it all at once, you may fail, and that would be disheartening. Build it up slowly, one at a time.” Ricky White, Taking Charge. Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You
I love the tools Ricky gives as they’re practical and easy to follow. I 100% believe this is a resource that every person should read. At some point in our lives, we’re all patients. It’s important to empower and arm yourself with the knowledge to navigate your healthcare appointments. Patients looking for answers, newly diagnosed patients, and veteran patients alike can learn a lot from this book.
I honestly feel like every primary care doctor should give their patients a copy of this book!
Wishing You A Pain Free Day,
I received a free electronic copy of Taking Charge. Making Your Healthcare Appointments Work for You. All of the thoughts expressed in this blog post are completely my own and 100% authentic. I do believe it is a great book and would suggest it to all!