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Know Your Rights

Exercise Your Right

The Journey from Patient to PersonPain has a nasty way of crowding out other parts of your identity.  Without even realizing it, you may go from feeling bad about the pain to feeling bad about yourself.

But every one of us—whether we live with pain or not – possesses one most basic right:


Click here to find out what it is!


Exercising your Basic Rights allows you to be an equal participant in any situation.  

Read (and reread) the list of Basic Rights until you know them by heart.

Then, learn how to assert your rights and discover the perfect words to stand up for yourself -- honestly, tactfully, and effectively – in just about any situation.



To act and be treated in a way that promotes dignity and self-respect.



That’s right:  Dignity and Self-respect. Once you believe you deserve those, you will feel more empowered:

  • to accept your pain.
  • to make the choices that feel right for your life.
  • to decide when and where or even if you want to share your private information with people other than  your medical team. 
  • to return to that place where you think of yourself as a person, not a patient.

You have the right to...

If you don't believe you have this right, no one else will believe it either. You do deserve equal and fair treatment and once you embrace that fact, the rest of these Rights will fall right into place.

You are living a life with pain.  That means sometimes you may find yourself traveling through uncharted territory.  Of course you’re going to make mistakes from time to time because mistakes are a natural part of daily life for all of us!

In our ultra-competitive world, it’s easy to buckle under to that pressure to be The Best.   But you have the Right to occasionally step back from those demands because your pain can increase when you push yourself too far. 

Listen to what your body is asking you to do:  Take a breather.  Take a break.  

Pain makes it difficult to make plans in advance.  But that doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself off from the people and activities you enjoy. 

Go ahead and make plans and if your pain flares up, know that you have the Right to change your mind and try again on a day when you feel well enough to fully enjoy the activity. 


No one knows what you need better than you do.  Start each morning by asking yourself, “What are my needs today?”   Then determine the right path, and the right people, to help you reach your objectives. You have the Right to approach them and ask for what you want.


How many times have you regretted saying yes to a request?  Maybe it happens because you’re eager to please people.  Maybe you feel pressured to provide a fast answer.  Either way, you have the Right to pause and consider the consequences.

“Let me think about it and get back to you.”   Those magic words ought to buy you some time to think through any request. 


You have the Right to know the reasons why your parents, teachers, and medical team are making decisions that affect your life.  As the old saying goes, Information is power

If you don’t understand something, do the research, and ask the questions, which will connect you to the facts, figures, definitions, and answers you need to be in-the-know. 

At some point in your life, you probably held a door open for someone carrying a heavy box.  Or lent your friend lecture notes from the day she was absent.  Or volunteered with a group doing community service.

You don't resent lending a hand when someone needs help so don't be shy about asking others for assistance when you are in need.  You may be surprised to discover just how many people are happy to come to your aid!


Try running a marathon with a thousand-pound weight attached to your back.  Yeah.  That's what it's like going through life feeling bad about who you are.

You need to think about how pain affects your own self-image before you can think about your relationships with others.  Shed the emotional dead weight because you have the Right to feel good about who you are. 

Some people think disagreeing is the same thing as arguing.  But we all hold different views and opinions about topics.

It doesn't matter if it's a parent, teacher, friend, or even a member of your medical team; it's okay to respectfully disagree with a point that just doesn't sit right with you. 

There's a big difference between choosing to share information and feeling obligated to talk about stuff you'd really keep to yourself - especially when it comes to revealing details about your pain.

No need to apologize, no need to over-share, no need to provide play-by-play commentary about what's going on inside your head.  You have the Right to privacy and to living the life you choose on your own terms.


Saying no to someone can be tough ... but saying yes to everyone is even tougher!  You do not have to agree to everything you're asked to do.  Life is a lot less stressful when you know you can exercise your Right to say no and then move on without guilt.

Fear is a pretty powerful controller – especially fear of the unknown.   Take away that fear by asking one simple question:  Why?

The answer might help clear up a misunderstanding . . .  or give you a new perspective ... or provide input for an important decision.  It might even reveal that the person you’re asking can’t adequately answer why a decision is being made!  Asking why will put you back into a position of power over your life so get used to asking it – a lot.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to expressing your feelings.  Hiding how you really feel will only lead to frustration, tension and stress -- and that’s never a good thing when it comes to managing your pain.  

Be up-front about your feelings and stand firm if someone tries to devalue them.  You have the right to be heard and respected because what you have to say is important to the conversation.

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