When you receive a diagnosis about a serious or life threatening illness, it is so difficult to absorb any information given to you at that moment, much less to consider researching your options and making decisions about treatment. You are in shock, numb and frozen, unable to think clearly. Some people describe this as “the deer in the headlights” feeling. After a couple of days, you may spring into action. You may go on the internet and find so much information that you experience information overload, or you may attend a support group meeting where members with the same diagnosis are more gravely ill than you are, and you end up feeling more scared than helped.
Here are some immediate things to do that work well:
- Locate a medical researcher to find the latest and best treatments for your illness. This person’s job is to search the medical literature and give you information on your condition, important studies, clinical trials, most promising treatments, and the best expert doctors who treat your illness.
- Get second, third, and even fourth opinions from prominent doctors or experts on your illness. Take a friend or family member to these appointments to take notes and/or bring a digital recorder to the appointment so you can listen again to points you may have missed during the live interview.
- Be proactive and marshal your resources. You will need as much emotional and practical support as possible from your personal community of family and friends.
- Find a counselor or therapist who can help you cope with the stress of your situation. This is important. Sometimes family members, while well-meaning, are too close to your situation to be objective because they themselves may be overwhelmed.
As a survivor of a serious illness earlier in my life, I know the ropes. And as a qualified and experienced psychotherapist, I help walk people through the process of learning their options, gathering needed information and support, and attending to your emotional needs as well as those of family members and friends.
If you would like my help with a serious medical diagnosis, click here.