Things to do Before Treatment
Things to do Before Treatment


Martha Red Willow
(Oglala Sioux)
Dx 1989 Breast Cancer



"I believe my daughter was around eight years old and my son was ten or eleven, and that's the first thing that came to my mind was I have to get well, who's gonna care for my children, who will take care of them if I'm gone. You don't have time for self-pity."

to play Video Vignette - click audio only  

Some things you may want to do before you begin treatment

  • If possible, have grandchildren and other children come over to visit with you before you go to the hospital. Playing with the children and talking with the children reminds patients why it is important to overcome this disease. You may find that your children or grandchildren help you feel stronger. Besides, they may make you laugh and remind you how important it is for you to stay well to be able to teach and enjoy the next generation.
  • If the hospital is several hours from the home, consider staying in a hotel the night prior to hospital check-in, especially if you need to check in very early in the morning (e.g., 6:30 a.m.). Many organizations can help pay for the hotel (see the financial resource leaf).
  • Either check yourself or have someone you trust contact the tribe or your insurance to find out what is and is not covered by your insurance or tribal coverage. Several programs do not pay for cancer treatment drugs. If this is true for you, talk with your provider first. Then talk with the clinic or hospital Social Worker, who frequently has ways for you to get the medications you need.
  • There is a lot of paperwork. Some forms and information you may need over and over again. Have someone from your family make copies of your records or a summary of your information (insurance number; tribal enrollment number and identification care if you are using tribal programs). You may want someone you trust to help you fill out the paperwork.
  • Although you are not expecting death from these treatments, it is a good idea to get your living will and final will and testament written. Make certain a legal representative is involved and notarizes the documents. A lot of time we think that we dont have anything to leave behind, but when you really begin to thing about it, you probably have some regalia, jewelry, artwork, and much more than what you realized. Rather than having family and others argue over such things, it is more efficient for you to decide how you want your things handled, including your ceremony, burial and so on. You are not likely to need this yet, but everyone does leave this earth at some time and it is easier on the family and loved ones if they know what your wishes are. This is really important for living will issues (see the palliative care / comfort care branch NOTE: expected to be online by late spring 2006). For Native patients who have medical insurance: The patient has enough concerns to be considering as she approaches surgery. Someone needs to check with the health insurance agent and learn if there are any special requirements, restrictions or limitations related to her cancer treatment and follow-up care.
  • Since so many Natives are diagnosed with cancer at an earlier age than white people, you may be working when you are diagnosed with cancer. You need to check in with your employer to find out about emergency leave, Family Leave Act, Workmans Compensation, Americans with Disabilities Act and other possible programs that you may be eligible for. Most of these federal plans have a lot of paperwork and most will reject your first application. Make certain you have copies of all of your documents and appeal the decisions if you really do need the types of help these programs provide.



top of page