“You have cancer.”
“You have to have bypass surgery.”
“You are diabetic and you have to start taking shots for the rest of your life.”
These statements, along with any other catastrophic diagnosis, are obviously all statements you do not want to hear coming from your doctors’ mouth. The shock and fear that accompany these words can make a grown man or woman cry and stop dead in their tracks. A catastrophic diagnosis, or any bad news, from a doctor can stifle a person’s life and completely send them into an emotional free fall. The confusion and fear are overwhelming; I know because I have been there and I have lived it and experienced it firsthand over the last 45 years.
I am writing the article because I want to help you deal with these diagnoses and these emotions. I want to share my revelations with you so you can learn from them and so you don’t make the same mistakes I have made or witnessed. I want to help you make the right decisions from a position of strength and knowledge, so you can survive and live with your disease and live gladly.
Over the years I have learned how to survive and stay strong and meet these challenges head on. Simply put, my goal is to share with you the knowledge I have accumulated; to say to you “here it is, these are things that will help you make good decisions. Doing these things worked for me and I hope you use them in good health.”
Let’s start at the beginning, you have been diagnosed, and you are in shock, now what are you supposed to do?
Suddenly all the little things you were worried about don’t even exist once you receive this news. These daily tribulations don’t seem all that important anymore. The only thing you keep hearing over and over again in your head is the doctor’s voice repeating your diagnosis. She is giving you names of specialists you need to contact, writing prescriptions, and suggesting treatments she wants you to have. Your head is in a cloud and you don’t really absorb all of it. You are still in shock!
The following are 6 tips you can use to help navigate your way through the mind field that is surviving a catastrophic diagnosis and a trip to the doctors and or hospital.
1. The first thing you have to do, the very first thing, is ask the doctor for all the information she or he can give you about your diagnosis and make sure it is on paper. Ask the doctor to include the different names of the disease, the complications that are associated with it, the symptoms, the prescribed treatments available, the different levels of the disease, and so on.
2. You should always try to have someone with you, some person you trust, that can be your patient advocate. Someone you feel comfortable with sharing all the information you are acquiring. If at all possible they should go with you to the doctor visits and treatment facilities. This way you will have someone there to make sure you are making all the right decisions. Decisions about your condition, its treatments and catching any mistakes you may make. This person can also serve as your second set of eyes and ears and remind you of things you may have forgotten.
3. Time with the doctor is precious and it is important to get all your questions answered when you actually get to see him/her. Each time you visit a doctor you should write your question down before the doctor’s visit! Then write the answers down if you want. Write it down or ask the doctor to write it down or print it out. I say this because as soon as you leave that office you aren’t going to remember everything. patient education is the key!
4. Once you begin this journey you need to start a file for your case! It needs to be organized and it needs to be easily accessible. It can be on a thumb drive or a lap top or if you want, go old school with it and use labeled folders in a filing cabinet. Break the file into specific categories- Diagnosis, the disease (information about the disease itself), medicines you are taking (All medicine and supplements and not just the ones for this disease and the dose and frequency your taking), doctor visit notes, medical receipts, insurance information, treatment notes (What you have had done, when and where), and any other category you feel would help.
5. Remember this is your life and you are the C.E.O of this life. The doctor is your manager. He works for you; helping you get all the right information so together you can both make informed decisions. Keeping this in mind, don’t be afraid to ask questions.