That's not the title of the book I'm about to review, but it sure as heck could be...

The whole point of all this talk about "empowered patients" and "Health 2.0" is that people are getting savvier about their own health and the care they need. Part of this is a natural byproduct of the "Information Age," where we have the wonders of the internet at our fingertips. But the other part is that our health system in America has imploded (or quickly eroded) to the point where we have to be grab the reigns of our own diagnoses and treatments.

Yet most of us are stuck in the old-school mindset of relying on a "benevolent doctor" and caring health system to take care of us when we get sick. And when we get diagnosed with something scary, there's nothing more human than to freeze up and relinquish all control to "the experts." Boy, can this have dire consequences!

Now, finally, there's a really great straight-talkin' guidebook that explains all this, and tells you in no uncertain terms how to advocate for yourself.  The book is called "You Bet Your Life: The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes" by famous e-patient Trisha Torrey.

First, you should know a little about Trisha. As she explains in the book's introduction, she was told in summer of 2004 that she had a rare and deadly lymphatic cancer, and needed chemotherapy.  Luckily, she was curious enough about her own symptoms to get some second opinions.  To make a long story short, it turns out Trisha had no cancer at all! Seriously, none. "Ironically... had I undergone chemo or radiation and survived it, the very doctors and pathologists who misdiagnosed me ... would have been declared heroes for curing me of an incurable cancer," she writes.

Trisha has gone on to become a columnist, radio host, and frequent speaker, known as "Every Patient's Advocate."


"You Bet Your Life" is her first book, and IMHO, it is a seminal one. Her main messages are some inconvenient, but fundamental truths:

1) doctors are just humans like us - they too make mistakes.

2) capitalism and benevolent healthcare don't mix - our country is founded on business principles of maximizing profit. This has spilled over into healthcare, which is now clearly more about making money than about making people healthy.

3) you cannot blame all your woes on the system - if you don't get the care you need, it's your own fault as well.

Trisha aims to teach us patients how get that care, by informing us on relevant topics ranging from the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician's assistant to how doctors prep for operations. Sound boring? I assure you that Trisha has made this stuff as palatable as possible, and you can learn a ton.  Beginning with how the needs and wishes of the three main stakeholders — doctors, insurance companies, and patients — clash.

Chapters include:

  • Mistake 1: Thinking the Healthcare System is Focused on Helping Patients
  • Mistake 2: Thinking Doctors Put Patients' Needs First
  • Mistake 3: Not Confirming Your Diagnosis
  • Mistake 4: Thinking You've Been Told About All Your Treatment Options
  • Mistake 5: Thinking You're Safe In the Hands of the Healthcare System
  • Mistake 6: Not Understanding the Influence of Your Medical Records on Your Health and Your Wallet
  • Mistake 7: Spending Time in the Hospital Unless It's Absolutely Necessary
  • Mistake 8: Using the Internet to Find Health Information Without a Compass
  • Mistake 9: Thinking Medical Research Is Searching for Cures
  • Mistake 10: Letting the Media Influence Your Decisions Without Reading Between the Lines

Each mistake is followed by a "fix" chapter, with detailed descriptions of tactics to help you overcome, and use your growing understanding of the healthcare system to get better results.

For a little taste, you can review the first chapters of the book online here.

I can't recommend this book enough for caregivers in particular. If your loved one is dealing with a serious health condition, they need this information, but may not be in any shape or state of mind to engage themselves. Pick up a copy of this essential guide and start being a smart patient (advocate)!

Congratulations to Trisha — and Thank You!



{Langdon Street Press, under $12 on}


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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.