Coping With an Unexpected Medical Diagnosis: What I've Learned

Updated on December 26, 2018
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When I was told there may be a problem with my pregnancy, I was devastated. Learning to cope with uncertain medical news isn't easy.

What I Learned From My Doctor

When I was told there may be a problem with my pregnancy, I was understandably devastated. I quickly threw myself into trying to learn everything I could about the potential diagnosis, and in the process I learned a lot about how to cope with uncertain medical news. In this article, I hope to share some of what I learned.

Some people may suspect that something is wrong prior to visiting their doctor or undergoing medical tests. Others may receive a diagnosis completely out of the blue—following a routine medical exam or an appointment to address what they believed was a minor issue.

Should you suspect that something may be wrong, you should always get it checked out, no matter how scary the possible outcomes may be. Getting an accurate diagnosis may improve your quality of life and possibly even save it if you get an early diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with a medical condition, here are a few things you may want to do.

Do Your Research

Doing your own research online, prior to receiving a definitive diagnosis, is something many doctors advise against. It can cause you to think the worst if you look at the long list of possible causes for your symptoms.

However, for some people this can also provide them with the information they need to deal with possible future scenarios.

Following diagnosis, research can also inform you about potential treatments or ways to manage your condition that are more convenient or effective. Always follow your doctor's recommendations, but be aware that your doctor may not have a lot of experience with your particular condition. Even specialists treat patients with a variety of conditions, and if your condition is rare, they may have not seen many people in your situation.

Doing your own research can also help you find patient support groups that can provide a wealth of information: providing recommendations for medical professionals, treatments, ways to cope, and a support system in the form of other people who understand what you are going through. These support groups can be virtual (online) or in-person, in your local community.

Ask Questions

You will probably have a million questions about your diagnosis. During your initial appointments, you may feel too overwhelmed to think clearly and ask all of your questions. If you realize you forgot to ask some important questions after you leave the doctor's office, you can call or email your doctor to get answers. You can also research online, although you should always confirm these answers with your doctor before assuming or implementing anything based on what you read. Remember, never rely on information you may have obtained from a potentially unreliable source.

You will almost certainly find that online research can increase the number of questions you have. This is okay; learning about your condition will help you to manage it more effectively. Write any questions you have down so that you can go through them during your next appointment. It is likely that without writing everything down, you will forget some of them when you get to your appointment.

Don't expect your doctor to have every answer for you immediately. Sometimes, patients can ask doctors questions they themselves have never even considered, and they may need to consult with other medical professionals to give you an accurate answer. Just make a note to follow up on that particular question at a later date. Most doctors will be happy to find the answer for you.

Make an Action Plan

Following your research and the questions that you have asked, are there any actions you can take?

For example:

  • Can you request any further tests to enhance your treatment?
  • Can you change your diet, exercise or general lifestyle to improve your quality of life?
  • Do you need to contact any specialist medical professionals who may be able to provide you with better treatment or advice?

Tell People

This does not mean you need to announce your diagnosis on Facebook or any other social media platform, but it is usually a good idea to tell your family and work colleagues (or at least your supervisor) about any diagnosis.

Make sure you explain the diagnosis to them and what it means. Does it mean you will need help doing certain things? Will you need to change your diet? Can you still perform all your duties at work as you have done previously?

You will find that the people you love will want to help you in any way that they can. That support network is invaluable and can get you through some difficult times, as well as lighten the burden that you are carrying.

Remember that people deal with medical diagnoses in many different ways. Some choose to find out everything they possibly can about it, whether it purely be scientific information or alternative treatments, too. Others prefer to know as little as possible and leave it to their doctor to manage it and tell them what they need to do.

Don't feel that what someone else is doing is what you should be doing. It may suit them but may not be right for you.

Try to at least find out enough about your condition and the treatments you may be on so that you can understand what your doctor is telling you in your appointments. It will give you that little bit of control and enable you to explain things to others.

Not all medical diagnoses are bad. They can explain previous symptoms and possibly help you to live a healthier life. Just deal with your diagnosis in the way that you feel is best for you.

When I learned about the potential problem with my pregnancy, I carried out all of the above actions. Yes, the research was scary and opened my eyes to the worst-case scenarios, but it also allowed me to make an action plan and prepare myself for whatever might happen. It allowed me to know that I had done everything possible to alleviate any issues.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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