When I received my life-changing diagnosis some years ago, it did just that – it changed my life. You may never have to deal with a life-changing diagnosis yourself, but if you do, or if someone close to you does, how will you cope?
My new book, which I’m thrilled to say was launched in London on 2 May, is the story of how I have coped. I’m also honoured to be able to include the stories of many other inspiring people, who have been through something similar.
Here are a few tips that will help, if you ever find yourself or a loved one in a similar position.
Like it or not, life is a finite thing. Most of us will face a devastating diagnosis at some point—whether in the form of a chronic illness, like diabetes, a disease from which you eventually recover, like a serious infection, or even something that eventually claims your life, like cancer. One of the many challenges of dealing with a life-changing diagnosis is that you might not know how it will affect you. There is simply no way to predict this; for some people, the uncertainty is almost as bad as the diagnosis itself.
Though there’s no way to prepare for a challenging diagnosis, and there is little you can do to mitigate the initial shock, there are some strategies can help you make it through the challenges.
Join a Support Group
Doctors specialise in giving information that’s scientifically verifiable, but not all useful information is supported by peer-reviewed studies. It can be helpful to know which diets, exercise regimens, or lifestyle changes have worked for others. A support group will also offer you a judgment-free space to talk and the chance to learn about others’ experiences. You’ll be able to ask questions about your doctor and your treatment and get help finding the best care team for your needs.
Join a support group as early as possible. If you’re anxious about doing this or you don’t think you have enough time, think about starting with an online group or a message board instead. Just remember that information from your support group is no substitute for medical advice.
Ask for Help
Even if your relationship with your family is strained and you only have a handful of friends, the people who love you will probably want to help. The challenge is that many of them might not know how best to do this. Concerned about overwhelming you or intruding, they might hang back and do nothing until they get a clear request from you. If people ask what they can do or volunteer help, don’t shy away from asking for what you need. The worst they can do is say no, but in most cases, they’ll be relieved to have a chance to make your life a bit more manageable.
Therapy isn’t just for people who struggle with mental health issues. It can also help you devise better ways to cope with stress, particularly when you’re stuck or feel like you’re at your wit’s end. Many therapists specialise in helping people make peace with a devastating diagnosis. Your therapist can also help you to become a more effective advocate for yourself, and could even help you to share your diagnosis with your family.
Take Control of Your Health
Your doctor can provide you with lots of information about your condition, but no doctor can tell you everything. A life-altering diagnosis may leave you feeling out of control, but you can regain some sense of control by taking control of your own health. Some options to consider include:
- Reading studies and books about your diagnosis; steer clear of message boards and most Internet sites, which may provide inaccurate information
- Joining a support group and exploring options that worked for other people
- Questioning your doctor when you don’t feel heard
- Seeking a second opinion
- Considering alternative treatment strategies as a supplement to your current care, including massage, psychotherapy, or acupuncture
- Training as an Expert Patient (https://www.gov.uk/government/case-studies/the-expert-patients-programme)
- Embracing a healthy lifestyle, including as much appropriate exercise as you can manage and a balanced diet
- Finding new ways to incorporate activities you love into your life.
Find Ways to Live With Uncertainty
No matter how much treatment you undergo, how many healthy lifestyle changes you make, or how much support you have, you can’t control the ultimate outcome of your disease. Many people begin their journey feeling hopeful, only to feel crushed when a new exercise plan or miracle diet fail to cure them. Ultimately, you must find ways to live with this uncertainty and lack of control. The right strategy varies for everyone, but many people find that meditation, which helps you live in the present moment while steadily working to ease your anxious mind, can really help.
Look for the best combination of a number of strategies and always remember that you are not alone.
Buy the Book!
And if that isn’t enough, then you can buy my book for just £12.99 by clicking here.