Saturday, September 6, 2014

What to Do When You Get Really Bad News

You may remember how you heard it.

 Were you in the hospital? A doctor’s office? Did you get a phone call? Maybe it was well and compassionately done, or maybe the doctor fumbled the news and blurted out your diagnosis or prognosis.

What so many people have said was how quickly the fog descended. They remember the dissociation and fear flowing on top of reason. When I received my cancer diagnosis I was young (in my twenties) and alone and massively in denial. I was more concerned that my married “boy friend” not know about my health issues. I definitely did not have a list of questions or a notebook or a plan.

When John got his preliminary cancer diagnosis I was in the curtained room of the medical suite, and when he got the definitive diagnosis of Stage Four cancer I was there in the new surgeon’s office as well. We were both shocked, both times—sure that such a healthy, fit guy with zero symptoms could have such a serious cancer gobbling him up.

I began writing “Love in the Time of Cancer” that year to process my feelings, to document what it was like to be in love and cancer at the same time and to become a new and better resource for others than I had been able to find for us.

You’ve seen here lots of helpful websites, articles and books. Today I want to suggest a book that is new to me that you will likely want to have handy for your family or for a friend or coworker.

The book is called, “After Shock—What to Do When the Doctor Gives You a Devastating Diagnosis.”  The author is Jessie Gruman, Ph.D. She is a scholar, researcher and the founder of the Center for the Advancement of Health—an independent health policy institute.

This is the book I wish I’d had and the book your doctor should hand you but probably didn't. And this is not just a cancer book—the guidelines, checklists and stories are helpful for a diagnosis of heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, ALS—and of course, cancer.

I think this book is also something you can do for a friend or coworker when you have no idea what to do or when boundaries prohibit getting too involved—maybe at work or with an ex etc.

In the next few posts I’ll share some of the highlights and what I think is especially helpful from “After Shock”.

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