Organizing Your Care
Having cancer sometimes feels like a full-time job. In addition to all the appointments, there are phone calls, emails, many pieces of paper to organize. There are often additional non-medical appointments like support groups or acupuncture or additional trips to distant stores to purchase food that seems healthy and desirable. This essay won't help much with the shopping, but ASCO's Cancer Net has some good suggestions re how to keep track of the zillions of papers:
Organizing Your Cancer Care
As a person facing cancer, you may be gathering cancer information, making appointments, getting test results, and learning about treatment options. One way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to become well organized. (Note from Hester: This can be a tough suggestion for someone who is not feeling well or for someone who, by nature, is disorganized. In those instances, you might consider assigning this job to someone close to you.)
Organization allows you to make decisions and act in a calm and timely way. Many people find that being organized helps them gain control over all the information they receive. Here are some suggestions that may help you organize your cancer care.
A large part of managing your cancer care involves organizing information. A filing cabinet or simple desktop divider with individual folders in alphabetical order keeps needed information all in one place and makes the information quick and easy to find. Your files may include:
Appointment notes, to keep track of the information from each doctor
Cancer-specific information on your type of cancer, such as articles from this website or others
Contact information for doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and others important in your care, including phone numbers to reach someone during non-business hours
Costs, including financial information and insurance
Medical history, including your current medications and diagnostic and treatment histories. These can be very important if you change doctors, have a recurrence (return of cancer after treatment), or if your original medical records are lost or destroyed.
A copy of your treatment plan and summary, which has information about your cancer, treatment, and follow-up care
File new information as soon as possible, so you can easily find it. As files on general topics grow larger over time, break them up into more specific topics.
Organize for appointments
For each appointment, consider writing down the address and phone number of the office, and a written list of questions that you may want to ask the doctor. Arrange for any needed transportation at least one week in advance, then confirm the date and time again one day before. (Note from Hester: This is a very important suggestion as medical appointments notoriously do get changed and somehow the patient is sometimes not notified.)
Enlist the help of a friend or family member to keep track of your regular monthly bills or consider using a bill-paying service to help keep your payments on time.
Try to decide ahead of time how to adjust your budget to deal with any loss of income resulting from less time at work, or expenses that are not covered by insurance. Consider making special arrangements with creditors. Get more help with managing the cost of cancer care.
Keep current copies of all insurance policies and refer to them by name and number in any communications with insurers.
Keep a written record of any conversations with insurance company representatives, including the date, name of the person you spoke with, and what was said. Put the newest records at the front of the file, so the history of those dealings is always clear and up-to-date.
Everything in its place
Having one place in the home and/or office for those things you need regularly, such as prescription medications, can prevent frustration and save time that might otherwise be spent searching.
Writing down each task you need to accomplish between appointments, and putting a check mark beside each one when you complete it helps you mark your progress.