'My cancer diagnosis: Advocate for your comfort' – Sean Kent

January 19, 2013 | by Roberta Nichols

One in a series of stories asking former patients to reflect upon their experience ...

We asked comedian and former Hodgkin lymphoma patient Sean Kent to look back at the time of his diagnosis, and ask himself, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? What wisdom, soothing words or practical tips, would you give your newly diagnosed self?

Sean Kent Comedian and former Hodgkin lymphoma patient Sean Kent with his wife and two daughters. (Photo courtesy of Sean Kent)

He responded with so much good advice that we're posting it in six installments.  The first installment was about guilt, the second about food, the third about the hospital buddy, the fourth about patients vs. patience.

Here’s the fifth part, titled “Advocate for Your Comfort.”


If you feel something – SAY SOMETHING.

There are a million drugs or treatments they can give you for discomfort now. If the pills you’re on for nausea don’t work, call your doctor at his house and yell at him until he writes you a new prescription and brings it to your house.

If you suddenly feel weak or lose energy when you were fine a minute ago – head to urgent care and get looked at. I had a life-threatening blood clot that I found by doing just that. My left shoulder looked a little puffy and I headed on down. Good thing I did.

Many times I see people suffer needlessly because they don’t want to be “high maintenance” or they “have an appointment in a couple days and I’ll ask then” or perhaps it’s just in their nature to suffer in silence. Please don’t do any of that.

This is the time in your life when you get to be as high maintenance as you can possibly be.

You must work with your doctor(s) to alleviate symptoms. If you feel anxious, they can help. If you feel nauseous, they can help. If you lack hunger, they can help (so can marijuana). If you’re constipated – they can help! Pooping awaits!

But you have to speak up! No one knows what you are feeling but you! Is that pain in your left leg normal? Should your right eye be vibrating? Do all cancer patients lose their car keys constantly? Only one way to find out – ask your doctor!

I don’t care if you’re the suffer quietly type or if you “don’t want to be a bother.”

SCREW THAT! A doctor’s job is to listen to what is bothering you, to what you are going through, and then to go about fixing it.

If you find your complaints are falling on deaf ears, then demand to talk to someone else. You’re not being a jerk. You’re being smart. You are acting out of self-preservation. You are taking care of yourself.

I don’t care whose feelings get hurt along the way or how many grumpy receptionists you have to go through. This is you, this is your time, this is your body and you are wonderful. You don’t deserve to feel pain, to be anxious, to be constipated, to feel anything remotely unpleasant that modern medicine can help you not feel.

But – it starts with you. If you feel something – SAY SOMETHING!

Next: The Glorious Ending

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