When the doctor says: “You appear to have . . . and we will need to . . .” Uh oh! Not what you want to hear. How do you react when you receive adverse health news? What are your first thoughts?
Real life experience: When I first received news from my urologist that I had bladder cancer, in just a matter of minutes I rode the gamut of emotions. As I left the exam room, I stopped by the receptionist’s desk to schedule a follow-up visit. I was laughing, joking with the lady as was my usual demeanor. When I got into my car, tears flooded like a raging river as I pounded the steering wheel saying out loud – “No, no! Not the ‘C’ word! Certainly this cannot be happening to me.”
What changed my earlier feeling of aloofness? REALITY! I was reacting to my FEELINGS – which are not good or bad. They are just that: FEELINGS! It became apparent that I was being human. So, let’s talk about that for a bit. Adverse news can take on a lot of different emotions such as:
- feeling overwhelmed
Add you own here!
You may ask yourself, “What do I do now? What are the next steps?”
First: gather information. Ask the doctor questions about what they plan to do so you will have more information with which to work. Research shows:
- 2 % of people forget to ask some of their questions in the presence of the doctor
- Patients only remember 15-20% of the information they get from the doctor
Why is that? Let’s face it. Your life is about to change drastically. What’s the impact? How do you handle this “new normal”? This leads to limiting the hearing mechanism significantly. You hear words, but all too vaguely. Your mind is trying to sort through a quagmire of unknowns.
One word of caution: Don’t jump to conclusions before you have accurate information.
When gathering your information, a few areas to be aware of:
- Be careful with whom you talk. Avoid “Do Gooders” who tell you about their experiences.
Example: “When I had the same thing, oh, the misery I went through. Gloom, despair and agony on me!” or worse, “My Aunt Suzy had the same thing! She was GONE in 3 weeks!”
RUN from these types of folks. They are not there to support you.
- Talk with your doctor about any issues you have re: anesthesia affects, anxiety, caretakers or lack thereof, home life, after care, financial concerns, recuperation time, rehab, consequences of surgery, concerns you may have regardless of how simple they may seem.
- Clarify words used by medical staff that are foreign to you.
Example: When I was in cardiac rehab, one of the therapists, referring to me, said,”Oh he’s had cabbage!” I replied, “No, I don’t even like that stuff!” Definition of the medical term CABG, pronounced “cabbage” means Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting. Okay, go ahead and chuckle. I can, now that I know what the term means. Bet you have had similar misunderstandings.
- Don’t understand something? ASK, ASK, ASK.
10 questions to ask before having surgery – American College of Surgeons
- Why is the surgery needed?
- How will the operation be performed?
- Are there other treatment options and is this operation the best option for me?
- What are the risks, benefits, and possible complications for this operation? Will my health history and medications I am currently taking mean the risks, possible complications, and benefits will be different for me
- What are anesthesia options?
- What kind of anesthesia is best for me given my health history?
- How will I be monitored during the operation?
- What can I expect before the operation?
- Special preparation e.g. diet
- When should I stop taking home medications ?
- What can I expect for my recovery in terms of treatment, medications, diet, home care?
- Could you tell me about your experience with this type operation?
- Is the surgical facility accredited and properly staffed?
- How much will the operation cost me and what type insurance do you take?
Once you are able to begin sorting out the information you have just received, focus on MAKING A PLAN. You may ask: “What’s the benefit of that?”
Well here you go. A plan:
- gives you a sense of CONTROL when you feel you have none
- provides hope and purpose for setting goals
- helps focus on a method for measuring, achieving and revisiting the goals
- allows you to celebrate and/or adjust as needed based on goal results
- be sure there is an advocate IN the hospital at all times to monitor activity to insure you are given the care you should be receiving
POINT: Do not face your event ALONE!
Health issues become a FAMILY affair.
- You need to determine how family will support what you are going through.
- Realize your personal duties/responsibilities will change and who will assist you with these?
- What kind of personal care will you receive at home?
- Who will assist you with personal hygiene once you are home?
- What duties at home will you need to have covered?
What about stress levels? How will you deal those? Studies have shown that stress, from whatever source, has a detrimental affect on the immune system. You may need to improve your quality of life by reducing stress. How?
- One way is to make a list of all things you are doing. Choose one, two or more areas that you can let go of and DROP it or them! Unknowns and unanswered questions can oftentimes create stress.
- Another way is to share what is bothering you with a trusted friend.
- Locate a Christian counselor or talk it over with your Pastor
That about wraps it up for now. Join me next time with Part 5, where we will turn our attention to: Take Control by Developing a SUPPORT SYSTEM.