Guyside: Get advocaty, dude

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in aging, Guyside, health, general, men | 0 comments


My forties have been a tumultuous time for me, healthwise. Essentially, I went from someone who had few problems physically or psychologically — at least ones I was willing to acknowledge, even to myself — to a rare diagnosis of bladder cancer, a bout of clinical depression, and some of the stresses and damages that go along with the clock.

I’ve lost a parent, a parent-in-law, and a number of friends. And one of the things that I’ve learned through my experiences and those of friends and loved ones is the value of being a self-advocate for your own health.

It’s not just a cliche that men don’t take care of themseves. It’s a fact. A 2011 article in Monitor on Psychology points out that not only do men take worse care of themselves than women, they are far less likely to seek health care out. That double whammy could contribute to men’s shorter life expectancy.

So how do we become better self-advocates?

First, we need to go to the doctor (or, in my case, the nurse practitioner), and we need to be more clear about why we’re there. A WebMD article tells the story of one man who visited Dr. Paul Haidet:

“A 50-year-old Boston dockworker with no serious illness in his past, the patient said the cough had been hanging on for three weeks. Haidet noted the details, performed a physical exam, and diagnosed an upper respiratory tract infection. “The guy had a cold,” Haidet tells WebMD. He recommended cough syrup and was about to leave, but something gave him pause. The patient “just had this weird look on his face,” Haidet recalls.

Haidet learned that the man’s best friend had recently died of lung cancer and when his friend was diagnosed, he had a very similar cough. As a longtime pack-a-day smoker, the patient was afraid his number was finally up.”

Second, do some research. I read a lot of stuff. And I try to read it critically, to understand the context. For example, if I read an article about a lawsuit over a bladder-cancer drug, I don’t have an immediate fear reaction; I learn the particulars. Be sure to use reputable sites like the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, the NIH, the AMA, or associations concerned with a disease.

3. When you’re in a doctor’s office or at a clinic, don’t just nod your head. Come in with questions, and be prepared to ask for clarification of terms or concepts that you don’t understand. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a great checklist of questions for tests. That’s just one resource you can use.

4. Be politely persistent. I recently was searching out a referral to a specialist. Turned out the referral was being sent to the wrong place by my family practice. If I hadn’t been persistent in asking, who knows how long it might have taken to make it work. Because I discovered the error by checking with both sides of the transaction, I was able to ensure the connection was made, reducing my wait time.

These are just a few things we can do. If you’re looking for more ideas about self-advocacy, check out these resources:

And remember: As of January 2014, Guyside will now be taking over the Wednesday Bubble slot, and if you’ve got something to say around the topics of men, health, and aging, we want to know. If you are interested in contributing, drop us a note at

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