Becoming the Best U

Editor’s Note: Nancy Plummer was a columnist for us some years back on personal development, but due to health issues was forced to take a sabbatical. We are delighted to announce her return on a monthly basis with a new format.

By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

Question:  About a year ago, when I had a routine appointment at my primary doctor’s office, I noticed the staff and doctor giving preferential treatment to a woman who was dressed as if she was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I must admit, I usually show up at doctors’ appointments looking pretty disheveled. I’ve complained to my friends before that I feel overlooked and sometimes disrespected, so they suggested I dress up from then on. When I went to my appointment this past week, I felt there was indeed a difference in the way I was treated. Am I making this up, or is there legitimacy to this theory?

Sue – Westtown

Answer: Actually, your theory has merit. In fact, in Linda Villarosa’s book Under the Skin, she discusses how the bias doctors and caregivers have depends on someone’s outward appearance, particularly with the Black and Hispanic communities. And, there is research that in mental health diagnoses, appearance does seem to affect diagnosis. Erring on logic, it makes sense that given a doctor sees around fifty patients per day; the ones that arrive on time, are courteous, and well-dressed will get better treatment, even if it’s just a subconscious bias. That said, it is also important to show you take an appointment seriously; thus, have your questions written down on paper, write copious notes, and be sure to have a concrete game plan moving forward. Moreover, notice what the nurses and doctors are doing that you appreciate, and give them specific compliments. Too often times, our medical caregivers just hear complaints, and it is high time we let them know how grateful we are. For myself, I did notice a difference in treatment when I dressed up for chemo; however, I think it also may have been that my doctors and nurses were thrilled to see my daughter and and me trying to make my weekly chemo sessions feel more like a party by dressing up and trying to cheer up others. I feel it helps no matter the doctor you see. A positive attitude makes all the difference!

Question: I just got out of a long-term relationship which I ended. I feel like jumping back into the dating scene, but my friends keep telling me I should wait for at least six months. I’m not the type that carries baggage with me, especially since it was me who chose to leave. Any thoughts on this?

Mark – Exton

Answer: I don’t feel there is a set amount of time to wait until you get back on to the dating scene, especially when you were the one wanting out of the relationship. However, what I do recommend is that you figure out which aspects of the relationship you loved and which you loathed. It’s helpful if you can put your list down pen to paper; if you find it difficult, I’d ask a good buddy to help you. They usually know too. That’s your new “non-negotiable” list, and a good place to start. Next, make sure you’ve given yourself the time and permission to pursue the things you put off or stopped during your relationship. For instance, if you found yourself not getting to the gym as much as you would have liked, get it back into your schedule. Many people have shared that they appreciated being single again, even if it was just for a brief interim, because it enabled them to get back to the things they loved or missed. I always suggest that once you feel you’ve gotten to a place where you feel you’re honoring yourself, then it’s a good time to get out there and date. Just don’t forget to peruse your non-negotiable list from time to time.

Question: I am going to start chemo sessions soon and my doctor gently informed me that I should expect my hair to fall out soon after. I’ve always loved my hair and it’s one of my best features. I find myself worrying so much about this. Do you have any suggestions on how to make this part of my ordeal a little less scary?

Anne – West Chester

Answer: I’m so sorry to hear about your ordeal Anne. Losing one’s hair from chemo is scary, and for most women, it’s because just like you, they feel it’s one of their best features. Moreover, losing one’s hair from chemo illustrates how cancer takes control over our lives, which is terrifying. Might I suggest a few ways to take some control back from cancer and help you feel a little more empowered?

I remember years ago, before I was diagnosed with cancer, one of my dear friends called me crying, just after her treatment began, to say her hair had started falling out in clumps in the shower. When years later I was diagnosed with cancer, I vowed to find a silver lining. I planned a little celebration with my daughters and a few friends for the day after my first chemo session, and deliberately shaved all my hair off at once, rather than letting cancer dictate the timing. For me, I found it quite exhilarating and empowering, as I felt I was in control; a feeling that was rare considering my circumstances. We had our pictures taken together, toasted the occasion, and celebrated our small victory.

In addition, my daughters threw a “Wig Party,” inviting friends and family to come together, show their support, and vote on their favorite wigs for me. For every vote, each donated money to help pay for the wigs and medical expenses not covered by insurance. I wore the few chosen wigs with pride. Everyone said they had a blast at the party, and most importantly, it was cathartic for them as it gave them a chance to bond with each other while we all rallied together. In essence, as you go through your cancer journey, try to find little ways to feel empowered one day at a time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Nancy is a survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer, metastatic brain cancer, plus many other traumatic events. As a Wellness & Relationship Coach, she offers sage advice on ways to accept and navigate life’s challenges, and help you become the best you.

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