Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lessons Learned: Create Yourself a Medical Binder

I highly recommend creating your own medical binder.

And I mean a kickass, huge, three-ring medical binder. You will need it. I started out with a three-ring binder that was 1.5" in diameter. I am up to the jumbo 3" size and still growing. If you go through chemo, the binder is a must because there is no way you will be able to remember any of this stuff.

I have my binder separated into sections:

  • One section for each doctor. I ask for copies of everything whenever I have an appointment and put my records in the binder. This helps when I am going to doctor appointments - a doctor may not have received my latest test results. With my binder in tow, I can usually pull out the latest and greatest information which definitely saves time at appointments and makes things go a little smoother.

  • A section for my medical bills and corresponding claims, payment history, etc. This section is really useful to have on hand in case you have a question about a bill, a claim or need to follow up on a payment when you are at the doctor's office. It also helps me stay on top of what I've had done and who did it to me. (haha!)

  • A calendar section to write down appointments and keep track of procedures. This helps when the doctor wants to know the last time you had your blood counts checked or received your Neulasta injection. I can quickly look at my calendar and say: I had my blood counts checked on XYZ date without hesitation.

  • A section that lists all medications you are taking or have taken. My list includes everything from my chemo drugs to my Vitamin D supplement to my laxative. Seriously. I write down what I take on a daily, weekly, monthly or as needed basis. If you stopped taking something, keep track of when you stopped. You can also keep notes on side effects, etc. This is a huge help if you have to see a new doctor or end up in the ER for any reason. Trust me.

  • A section for notes and questions you want to ask your doctor. Keep your questions and answers together and just keep adding to them. This is important because one healthcare provider may give you one answer to a question while another provider might disagree. It's best to have all your questions and answers in one place so you can easily refer to them when you have an appointment.

  • A section with important phone numbers. I keep every doctor's phone number and emergency contact. I also keep other important phone numbers including the number for my pharmacy (I cannot tell you how many times I am asked for that information!). You might keep all your phone numbers in your list of contacts on your cell phone. That's fine but in a situation where someone else might need to call on your behalf (like your spouse or a friend), I think it's easier to just have everything in one place.

I carry my binder to all my appointments. Sometimes I need it and sometimes I don't. But when a doctor or nurse or other healthcare provider asks me a question, the answer is usually in my binder and I am always glad I have it with me.


  1. Jen, this is an excellent list. Thanks for porting it. I have yet to build a binder and I am 10 months in. Papers are all over my office. Tomorrow I'm going to Staples and get me a binder! ;-)

    PS Congrats on finishing chemo!


  2. Hi Jen,
    Just read a disturbing study by Dr. Coyne that a positive attitude does NOT make a difference in cancer survival rates. Nonsense, I say! So, I am doing my own "Scientific-ish" study on Positive Attitude. Hope some of your readers take part in my poll!
    Cancer Warrior

  3. My hospital gave me one when I started treatment with all of those sections. I call it my "you have cancer book." Great note for those that don't have one, especially if you go to different hospitals/places for treatment.