Member Interview: Beth Gainer, author of Calling the Shots in Your Medical Care

Beth Gainer

Beth Gainer

Name: Beth Gainer

Book Title: Calling the Shots in Your Medical Care

Publication date: Summer 2016. Visit www.bethgainer.com for more info.

What is your book about?

Calling the Shots in Your Medical Care helps inspire patients to advocate for themselves in the healthcare system instead of slipping through the cracks. The book helps readers assert their needs to medical personnel, such as doctors, nurses, and medical assistants; find the right physicians; hire and fire doctors; effectively talk to physicians; deal with difficult doctors, such as Dr. Bully, MD; and build a great medical team. The book also offers tips on dealing with difficult administrators and the bureaucracy of records departments.

Throughout the book, I share ample information on how I overcame hurdles while dealing with the healthcare system during my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. And I was able to win doctors to my side, becoming a partner of the medical team instead of a victim of the healthcare system. After reading this book, readers will hopefully be more likely to speak up about getting their needs met rather than giving up and becoming a casualty of the medical system.

What inspired you to write your book?

Having a devastating illness was the catalyst for this book. Through my self-advocacy, I saved my life twice. The first time was when I found my own breast cancer – missed by a mammogram and a routine doctor’s exam – and brought it to my physician’s attention. The second time I insisted on a preventive double mastectomy with reconstruction to reduce my chances of a recurrence. Despite a medical landscape brimming with hostile doctors and administrators, I persisted in getting my way. And it’s a good thing, for it turned out that one of my “healthy” breasts was filled with precancerous cells.

Before I found my own cancer, I was like too many patients: meek and passive, viewing doctors as uncontested authorities. With a cancer diagnosis, I learned to manipulate the very system that fails so many patients. During my medical crises, I searched for a book to help me cope as a patient and deal with healthcare personnel. But the lengthy, information-laden tomes I found were not helpful.

So I wrote a short, direct primer, Calling the Shots in Your Medical Care, to inspire patients to seize the reins of their own medical care and to speak up, not give up.

Can you describe your writing process?

I thoroughly enjoy writing and have felt compelled to write for as long as I can remember. The heart of my writing process lies in revision. I give myself permission to write a poor first draft, telling myself, “Just write anything,” and this helps me avoid writer’s block. The art of revision and “playing” with words and sentences are where I find writing most enjoyable. And I always consider my purpose and audience for any piece of writing. 

How did you come to do what you’re doing today?

I love the craft of writing and have enjoyed a professional writing career for non-medical-related purposes. My medical experiences have drawn my attention to targeting my writing to help patients and survivors of serious illnesses. In 2007, the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer (LaChance Publishing) published my essay “Breaking Barriers.” While I’ve written a lot in my career, it was this piece that was most gratifying because my words were actually helping readers. I also teach writing at Robert Morris University Illinois in the Chicago area, a profession that gives me deep satisfaction. I enjoy helping students learn how to improve their writing skills and understand how these skills connect to the business world.  Overall, writing and teaching have enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

My typical day is usually not so typical. I fantasize about getting up early in the morning each day to write for a set number of hours. However, like many authors, I balance a full-time career and family with writing. It’s all hard work, yet I try to write whenever I can.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

Writing and teaching are cathartic and fulfilling. To know that I can make a difference in a person’s life – whether through the spoken or written word – is powerful. I find great satisfaction in being heard and helping others. As a teacher, I have been fortunate enough to mentor future writers much in the same way my freshman college professor mentored me. And with my own writing, not only am I able to work through my issues, but, in turn, help others who may be going through difficult times.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity are among the many works that have inspired me. I love most kinds of literature and have learned from everything I’ve read. But my biggest inspiration was my freshman college writing professor and mentor, who believed in me as a writer and got me to believe in myself as one. I also have many wonderful in-person and online friends who are great writers and who inspire me, as well.

Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

I went to Michigan State University for one purpose: to be a veterinarian. Ironically, within two months of attending this university, I decided to become a writer. I am also an artist. I draw and oil paint and have studied under some wonderful artists. 

What’s next for you?

I have a completed collection of poetry on the breast cancer experience and will be publishing this book in a year or two.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have a seven-year-old daughter, two cats, and a rather large goldfish. While I take my careers as a writer and teacher seriously, my role as a parent is my greatest accomplishment.



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