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When the Diagnosis Is Serious, What’s Next?

We often hear about medical statistics. Some of us could become part of those statistics if we’re diagnosed with a life-altering disease. It might be cancer, heart disease or another of the serious conditions that puts your health in jeopardy.

Here are some thoughts that can help you cope if you receive news from your health care provider of a serious diagnosis:

1. Be willing to let some things go. If you feel overwhelmed after the diagnosis, accept that not everything in your life is important to do. At least for the short term, focus on what’s necessary in your life. Ensure you’re eating well, stay hydrated and get to your doctor appointments.

2. The feelings you have right after the diagnosis will change. After a serious diagnosis, shock is normal. The intensity of the feelings after the news will subside. You will find a new normal.

3. You won’t absorb everything you’re told. An Amgen survey found that 71 percent of patients had a hard time understanding information about their disease and how it might be treated. Make sure you ask questions and get clarification when you need it. Your provider is there to help you understand and to guide you.

4. Be patient as you learn about your disease. Understanding the scope of a disease and the appropriate treatment often takes time. You may need more tests or surgery for your health care providers to gauge the scale of the disease. The process can take weeks or even months.

5. Turn to support you trust. Who you tell about your diagnosis, how much you share and when is up to you. There’s no standard way to move through this process.

Support groups of people who are having similar experiences can be helpful for many patients. Ask your health care provider or other patients with a similar diagnosis about support groups that might be a good fit for you. For many patients, a good support group is a godsend.

Turn to your doctor, a palliative care specialist (caring for patients who are critically or chronically ill) or a health care provider you trust for answers to your health care questions. A palliative care provider specializes in helping patients and families make complex medical decisions.

You’re invited to check the Aurora Health Care website and, of course, our Aurora Health Care blog for additional useful health information.

Meet the Author

Timothy J. Jessick, DO is a hospice and palliative medicine physician at Aurora West Allis Medical Center.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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