I won’t be able to change the nomenclature of the medical profession but I refer to myself as a client, not a patient. By definition, a patient is “One who receives medical attention or treatment.” The archaic meaning was “One who suffers,” from the Latin verb meaning “to endure.” A client on the other hand is “The party for which professional services are rendered.”
Catch the nuance? A patient is the object of medical care, a client is the subject of medical services. In language as in life, an object is passive, a subject is active.
A patient complies with the experts. A client consults the experts, then follows what seems the best advice.
A patient might complain but would never contradict an authority. A client will ask questions and weigh alternatives before deciding.
A patient goes where sent and doesn’t change doctors or clinics. A client tries to find the best physicians and facilities realistically available.
A patient asks “What?” A client asks “Why?”
Being a client takes a lot more work. I have to educate myself about my condition and treatment options. It’s a daunting but doable task thanks to the Internet. There are plenty of reputable sites with reliable information the average person can understand. (See the LYMPHOMA INFO box in my sidebar for a start.)
Oncologists know a shipload more about lymphoma than do its sufferers, but they don’t know everything. It’s impossible to keep up with the ocean of new information. A dialogue with a well-informed client could suggest new possibilities to a thoughtful physician.
When I see Dr. Kurbegov in two weeks, I’ll ask if radioimmunotherapy is an option for my type of lymphoma based on an article I read in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/14/health/14lymphoma.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&ref=health&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1215184868-kpGcEK3iDh7sp+7sjM14Ug). I’ll ask about any clinical trials for which I might be a candidate, especially those sponsored by the MD Anderson Cancer Center where Dr. Kurbegov was a Chief Fellow.
I’m not trying to play doctor or impress anyone with my research skills. I’m just trying to understand my cancer and to be proactive in eradicating it. After all, it’s my life.