The Empowered Patient's Advice

Written by Paul Wolf

Meet Thea Sagen, a cancer survivor who thinks illnesses should be treated as an adventure.

Fearing the gray sterile hospital environment would strip away her identity, Thea Sagen placed a stack of her business cards near the door of her hospital room.

This was not marketing, it was self-preservation.

Create an environment in your hospital room and home that promotes healing.
See doctors and medical personnel as part of a healing team with you as the coach.
Consider your attitude to be the most important piece of the healing puzzle.
Use your illness as an opportunity to rethink your priorities. Eliminate everything that no longer serves your higher purpose.
Let your friends, family and medical team know what you need, and involve them in helping you to get it.

Three years after being diagnosed with cancer, the Monterey County, Calif., resident has survived and blazed her own path. Sagen says the key to her healing has been her own pro-active approach.

"You may feel that you have no control in what happens to you in life. But you actually have total freedom in how you respond to it," she says.

Don't hesitate to ask your loved ones, who may be feeling helpless, to fulfill your needs, she says. In the hospital, Sagen requested massage, organic foods and special music to foster her healing.

Watch this video on meditation and de-stressing with Dr. Andrew Weil.

Sagen also encourages us to involve doctors in our personal vision of healing. At her request, her admitting physician arranged for a master of the ancient Chinese practice of qi gong to act as her energy therapist during surgery.

It won't happen unless you make it happen, says Sagen, who, in addition to qi gong, employed an acupuncturist during the six weeks of radiation therapy following her life-threatening surgery.

The fist-sized islet cell tumor in Sagen's torso was so rare that her doctors had no protocol to follow. From her spiritual readings of Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel and others, she was convinced that the mind-body connection would be the crucial component to her healing.

Sagen's decision to accept cancer as an adventure eradicated her fear. She became the empowered patient, preserving her dignity amid the indignities of hospital gowns, probing procedures and the hospital hustle. Even when unable to walk, the empowered patient marshals her resources like an army commander before battlle.

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