Learning about a new health condition or health crisis in your life can be so overwhelming. Here are some actions to consider when you first learn the news:
Read about it. Get educated. Find the best authors. Try narrowing down all the books you find, and select just one if you can. Online sources help, too, but be sure they are trusted and approved by medical professionals. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Be cautious about what you read and trust, and certainly explore information with your medical team. A basic understanding of your health condition will make a huge difference as you get started on your journey—you’ll be more informed about what to ask and look for.
Prepare for it. Share the news with your most trusted contacts if you are open to it. Chances are, one of them knows someone who has gone through such a crisis or are aware of specialists who can help. If you can, consider taking time off of work to navigate through this initial period. Do what you need to do, so you feel prepared and ready. This is a time to take special care of yourself. Call your insurance company, so you know the benefits and providers allowed for you. For a complex health condition, like cancer, ask if you can have a “case manager”; he or she can approve and help navigate through the providers and hospitals you want to visit.
Schedule it. Your mission is to get appointments with doctors as soon as you can. Visit with a few different doctors if you need to. You want to feel comfortable with your care team. Get a sense for which doctor is the best fit for you. What feels right? With whom can you feel comfortable sharing your journey? Does training and experience matter? Research and networking with others can complement your decision making, as will prayer and your gut feelings.
Organize it. Take someone with you during all your initial visits if you can. You’re looking for someone who will and can dedicate the time, serve as a sounding board to help validate your decisions, and help you remember what was discussed. Don’t leave the visit until you have a recommended plan of action. With a complex health condition, half the battle is keeping everything straight and organized along the journey, so it’s important to have the right organization system, like mymessenger™, in place.
Do it. Trust your prayerful decisions and inner voice. Surround yourself with positive people and thoughts. So many resources are available to help you on the journey. Ask your doctor. Connect with people who have been or are navigating through it; support groups can be helpful. Exercise, good nutrition, meditation, guided imagery and prayer are also helpful.
Share it. Talking with friends and family can be helpful—and yet, it takes a lot of time and may feel exhausting sometimes too. Consider setting up a Caringbridge site, a “go-to” private place online, where only your designated personal contacts can learn how you are doing. Share only what you want visitors to read. It’s easy to set up your page. This can be a gift for your friends and family—and for you. Visitors can keep updated on your progress, and they can post well wishes for you to read. Their comments can be life-savers when you feel low. And why not take all the prayers and good energy you can get?
You’re starting a new journey. It’s scary. It’s emotional. It’s trying. It takes every bit of your energy. And the first few days and weeks are so critical. Learn all you can. Search for the caregivers you need. Know which doctors and hospitals you can visit. Get appointments on your calendar as soon as possible. Make sure you start out with the right organization system. Communicate when you can. And most of all, be good to yourself—and know you are loved, because you are.