bad news from the doctor

It can feel like the world has come crashing down when you or someone you love receives a grim diagnosis from the doctor. It’s as though time stops and then tunnel vision and worry take over. The question marks present themselves in spades, and it is sobering to think about a health battle and daunting final outcome. Before thinking the worst, however, here are five things you should know.

1. You have the right to a second opinion

Patients often hesitate to seek second opinions for fear of insulting their diagnosing physician. In truth, your doctor should actually encourage and support you in the decision to consult another expert. It is not only your right, but your responsibility to advocate for your health. Your insurance company can assist you in finding a health care provider who can review your chart, provide advice, and give opinions.

2. Deal with it in the way that’s best for you

There is no right or wrong way to take bad news from your doctor. Research, but don’t rely on Google for your answers. Cry, scream, be angry, call friends and vent, or take some time for yourself. You are allowed to experience all of your emotions and entitled to fully process what this diagnosis means for you. You don’t need to be strong for everyone else. This is your diagnosis and you get to handle it your way.

3. But don’t avoid dealing with it at all

While you should take the time you need, it’s important to note denial will not make this situation go away. Once you feel ready, take steps to decide on your course of action and treatment. Lean on friends and family, educate yourself in a manner that won’t scare you, and don’t make assumptions. If you don’t feel ready, reach out to your doctor in order to collaboratively generate a plan that works.

4. Your plan of action is your choice

Once you have been presented with your options, it is up to you to decide on a course of action or whether you wish to receive treatment at all. While there have been incredible advances in science and medicine, it’s up to you to call the shots. Seek opinions only if you want them; ultimately, you should do what is right for you.

5. There is hope

Finally, don’t put time limits on your life. There are hundreds of thousands who have surpassed the expectations of their medical teams and triumphed in their health battles. Try to remember that your body is capable of amazing things. There are no guarantees, but if you want to fight then allow yourself to do so for as long as it feels right for you. Stay informed throughout, and always be gentle with yourself.