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Above and Beyond

2015-04-30 Posted By Anika

I've been so blessed to have met, learned alongside of, and count Anika as one of my friends and role models. She has been through remarkably difficult times, but - boy, oh boy - has she risen above them! I was so honoured not only to get her honest opinion of Phoenix Attitude's Medical & Motivation account, but to also have her share some tips for getting through "those" days. Take a read and see what resonates with you! From Phoenix Attitude - Anika, we are so lucky to have people like you in the world who do what they can to support and empower others around them. Thank you!

When I think back to a time, a few years ago, where I sat sobbing and inconsolable in a doctor's office in London, England, all I can think now is: I wish Phoenix Attitude's Motivational Medical Account had been invented back then. Let me back up and introduce myself. My name is Anika and I am a Healthcare Social Worker. I'm someone who has used the healthcare system and I am a friend of Phoenix Attitude's Medical & Motivation account creator, Jenna. I have lived in Canada, Rwanda and England and for various reasons, needed to access the healthcare systems in each place. In Canada I was diagnosed with Cancer and underwent chemotherapy and an amputation. While living in Rwanda, I found myself in need of adjustments on my prosthetic leg and became quite sick with a kidney infection. In England, my residual leg (the part of my leg that remained after my amputation) developed Cellulitis, a common but fast-spreading and potentially life-threatening staphylococcus infection.

Every healthcare system has its strengths and its weaknesses. For various reasons, some health conditions are more easily resolved than others. That being said, as I worked towards resolving my Cellulitis infection, I found England's healthcare system was challenging to navigate through. By the time I reached the point that I sat inconsolably sobbing in a doctor's office during that ordeal, I had been beaten down by multiple appointments, multiple trips to the Emergency room, multiple times explaining my symptoms to multiple healthcare professionals and the infection had yet to stop spreading and was far from being resolved. I was in pain. I could not wear my prosthetic leg. I was exhausted, alone and scared. Having a tool like the Medical & Motivation account would have benefited me greatly. It would have been extremely helpful to have a place to write down my symptoms as they progressed as well as the questions I had for the healthcare clinicians treating me before my appointments. I spent a lot of time and energy having to re-explain my situation to various clinicians and there were 2 times I sat for hours in the emergency waiting room because I had forgotten to ask questions on a prior visit.

Living with complex and/or chronic health conditions is not easy. My experience of having Cancer was what led me to a career in healthcare social work and my experience of having Cellulitis is what stays in the back of my mind when I am working with my clients. My favorite part of my job is that I get to work with people as they tap into the resources they have available to them. Resources vary. Some are tangible and offered by other people and some are inner-resources my clients posses within themselves. I am always learning from my clients and I am continually inspired by the amount of inner-strength and resilience people have. Dealing with the healthcare system can, at times, require a lot of resilience. Besides using Pheonix Attitude's Medical & Motivation account (or course ;) ), some methods in which my clients have used to help them manage their health and navigate the healthcare system are:

Take the Weekend Off:

I worked with a client who was aware of how much her declining health, multiple appointments and tests were exhausting both her and her daughter. They decided to take a weekend off from her illness. They spent that weekend napping, reading, watching comedies, treating themselves for dinner at their favorite restaurant and going for a walk in nature. The walk consisted of my client's daughter having to push her along the trail in her wheelchair but the important part was, they got out and did it. They made it a priority to spend the weekend enjoying their time together in activities they once enjoyed doing together. They gave themselves permission to take the weekend off from their worries and according to my client, the weekend was "wonderful" and made her "feel human again."


Another client I worked was adamant that regular meditation has been an instrumental part in helping him manage the neurological disorder he has been diagnosed with. There are a number of different ways to get into meditation. You may know someone who meditates already or you might want to google different places that have group meditations in the community you live in. Also there are many guided meditations online that are free and easy to access.

Ask to speak to a Social Worker:

Many healthcare departments have Social Workers who are part of the inter-disciplinary healthcare team. If you are having trouble navigating the system or feel you could use someone to listen to you, it never hurts request to be referred to a social worker. Social Workers are trained to listen, help problem-solve, educate people about different resources and advocate. We may not have all answers or be able to fix everything but we are here to help and share tips when it comes to navigating through the healthcare system.

The above 3 ideas are just the tip of an iceberg. I believe that people are the experts of their own lives and full of ideas about what works best for them. What has helped you navigate through your diagnosis? The healthcare system?

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“Overcome the notion that we must be regular... it robs you of the chance to be EXTRAORDINARY ”
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