A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, or MS, can feel like a life sentence. You may feel out of control of your own body, your own future, and your own quality of life. Fortunately, there are many aspects you can still control, or at least have a positive effect on. Your first step is sitting down with your doctor and talking about treatment options and ways to make every day count.
As a medical expert, your doctor’s role is to diagnose and treat your illness. However, that’s not all they can or should do. Your doctor is your partner in health, and a good partner should be invested in your overall well being, both physically and mentally.
Doctors provide medical care for their patients. However, the time you have with your doctor at each appointment is limited. Preparing in advance will help you make the most of your time and ensure that all your needs are covered.
Schedule Your Time
When you make your appointment, let the office know that you want to discuss treatment options and quality of life issues with your doctor. This will help them schedule an appropriate amount of time so that you don’t feel rushed during your appointment.
Keep Track of Symptoms
It might be helpful to keep notes on your symptoms between visits to your doctor. This can help both of you notice patterns, such as differences in symptoms according to time of day or activity level, and any worsening or lessening of symptoms over time. You may even find that certain diet or lifestyle changes seem to improve some symptoms.
Make a List
Take the time beforehand to write out a list of what you want to discuss. This will save time and ensure that you don’t forget anything. Some topics to consider include:
- types of treatment
- side effects
- severity of your MS, and prognosis
- your symptoms, and how to manage them
- how your current treatment is working (or not)
- effects of diet and exercise
- benefits of vitamin D or other supplements
- mental health issues, managing stress, anxiety, and/or depression
- complementary or alternative therapies
- concerns over fertility or pregnancy
- the hereditary nature of MS
- what constitutes an emergency, and what to do if you experience one
Tell Your Doctor What’s Important to You
Make sure you communicate with your doctor about the issues that matter most to you. Are morning walks with your dog an important part of your daily routine? Do you have a passion for quilting? Are you concerned about living alone? A good understanding of your specific needs and wants will help your doctor make appropriate suggestions.
Ask for What You Want
You shouldn’t be afraid to speak your mind. Your doctor might favor aggressive treatment plans, whereas you might prefer to react to issues as they come up. Sure, doctors are the experts, but they appreciate when patients are informed and play an active role in their own health decisions. In most cases, there is no “right” or “wrong” treatment decision. The key is finding the one that’s right for you.
It’s not uncommon to test drive one or more treatments before finding what works best. In addition, what works for six months or a year may not work as well over the long haul. Sometimes medication adjustments or changes are in order. The important thing is to keep an open line of communication with your doctor, so that you can work together to keep you feeling your best.