Advocate for yourself and your health - Breathe

Advocate for yourself and your health

Fri 17 Jun 2022

I was diagnosed with Glaucoma at the age of 48. It was a shock. I was a fit, healthy and very active man with little in the way of previous ill health. I can only describe the following 2 or 3 years as like being on all the fairground rides at the same time

Initially, I struggled a lot. I had eye infections, a series of surgeries, procedures, endless hospital visits, and trips to the eye casualty. 

Unexpectedly, my eyelashes grew, I had permanent dark circles around my eyes, and I was fatigued a lot of the time and very, very depressed. These are some of the side effects of the medication I was taking. After a serious dip, I felt it was time to take control. A conversation with my yoga teacher revealed that there were some yoga positions that were detrimental to my eyes, so we created an alternative routine. I began to properly investigate what else I could do to better manage things. I had several tricky discussions with both my GP and my hospital consultant, and I found a way to move forward. My medications changed, my condition stabilised, my hospital visits became less frequent, and I looked and felt better. I was back in the driving seat. 

One of the most important lessons I learned was to become an expert – in myself. My doctors are experts in my condition, but I am an expert in how my condition affects me. I learned how the eye works, what lasting damage glaucoma can do and what you can do for yourself to help prevent that escalating.
Tim Osborn, Project Support Officer

Over time I have developed the confidence to speak up for myself and express what I need in terms of my overall healthcare. It wasn’t easy to begin with; I still felt on shaky ground asking the experts so many questions. But it got easier as time went on. This way of managing has now spilled over into my life generally and I found it can be a guide for getting through the battles and curve-balls life occasionally throws your way… and ultimately, to be in control of your general health and happiness.  

Statistically, men traditionally are less likely to engage in healthcare compared to women. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you or someone close to you is suddenly faced with a scary and bewildering diagnosis like me, perhaps my top tips for better managing your health can help: 

  • Be the expert in YOU. Understand your body physically and emotionally
  • Learn as much as you can about your condition​
  • Ask questions – no question is too trivial to ask.
  • Ask if you are being understood​ when you are explaining what is happening to you. Misunderstandings can arise, leading to frustrations and miscommunication
  • If you can, take someone to your appointments. They may ask questions you hadn’t thought about
  • Explore treatments. What suits someone else may not suit you
  • Ask about alternatives
  • Ask what lifestyle changes you might make to avoid medication
  • Support others with the same situation or condition – use your lived experience​ to empower others and yourself
  • Teach people about your condition​ and encourage them to take their own health and that of others seriously