Working in the health care field and having gone through a catastrophic illness myself puts me in a unique position to help others – sometimes in little ways and sometimes in bigger ones.

Last week, one of my best friends informed me that her out-of-town family member had been diagnosed with cancer. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. Your head is swimming. Doctors are telling you what to do. It’s all a raging blur. And, at the end of the day you are in a panic and don’t remember what you heard. And, what do you do next?

In this particular situation, this woman was referred to a surgeon within her current health system and told that the it takes too long to get into the “other providers” (who in fact are more qualified for this type of cancer surgery and treatment). Like many patients, she did not want to question her primary care physician about this recommendation. I find that patients don’t want to upset their doctors or make them angry.

So, my friend and I did a little “secret phone shopping” and came to find out that, no in fact, the wait time is short at this other facility. And, we were connected to a cancer patient “navigator” who was able to work with this patient and get her appointment set up – in a very timely fashion.

This type of thing makes me cringe. Hey patients: don’t be afraid to ask questions and do some quick homework to determine if there is a better and more qualified doctor for your particular circumstance. For instance, if you have been diagnosed with a certain type of cancer (i.e., breast), dive into which surgeons/doctors perform the most of this particular type of surgery or treat this type of cancer. This is your life and your body. If your physician gets upset over questioning him or her regarding who to see for treatment, maybe it's time to find a new primary doc.