Ask a Nurse - Facing the Diagnosis

Question:

I’m a 56 year old female with no previous medical issues except for childbirth. At my annual check-up, I mentioned some unusual symptoms I’ve been having. My doctor didn’t like what he heard and ordered a battery of tests. I find that I am moving through each day almost in a daze – going from test to test like a robot, too terrified to think what this all means. What do I do until I have my follow-up appointment?

Andrea answers:

I believe there is a better way to face this type of fear-filled event – a way that keeps you as an active participant without the paralyzing anxiety that can affect your healthcare outcomes. There are four key factors that I keep front of mind when looking after my clients as their case manager - Information, Family Supports, Environment and Professional Help.

Information – Learn about your possible condition, the tests you are having and proposed treatments for your condition. Knowledge will empower you and protect you. And it’s readily available – from the internet, from associations, from the library.

Family Support – Family is your best source of support but remember that they are also sharing this event / diagnosis with you and may need support also. Consider dividing up responsibilities between family members, keep everyone informed as a group and if care is required, be sure that the caregivers understand to consider your loved ones as well.

Environment – Your home is the best place for you and your family to face any changes with your health; however it may need to be re-structured to accommodate your new reality. Try and approach change as an adventure and with an all-encompassing Feng Shui feel.

Professional Help – Your diagnosis may bring you into contact with different sources of professional support – from therapists to nutritionists to community care workers and specialists. Find someone who will help you co-ordinate your care – your personal general contractor. This person should help you determine not only who helps you, but when help is most needed. You need to find someone who is organized and skilled at collaboration.

Over my many years of providing care to clients – simple or complex, in institutions or in homes – I have observed an emotion that affects people facing the diagnosis. This emotion can be very debilitating and profoundly impact how people react to the diagnosis and handle the subsequent course of their care.

That emotion is guilt.

Guilt over how their diagnosis will affect the loved ones around them – physically, emotionally and financially. And guilt that they were somehow not prepared for their diagnosis, that they didn’t give it the attention it deserved.

I’ve also observed that those who do prepare for their diagnosis don’t succumb to this emotion. They feel that there is nothing else they could have done and are able to approach their subsequent care holistically and feel they are doing the best they can. Perhaps the best example of this was a client I had named Margie. How she handled her diagnosis and how she involved me as her coordinator made a deep impact on me. So much so that I wrote a book about her entitled Margie’s Gentle Journey. If you’d like a free copy of this book, you can go to our website www.qualicare.com to order it.