6 Ways to Conquer a Scary Diagnosis
Life goes on after receiving news of a frightening illness. Here’s how.
Tips for Coping continued...
Because feelings of shock and bewilderment may continue to overwhelm you in
the days following your diagnosis, digesting information in very short, pithy
chunks can be helpful, suggests Ingram. So, whether you're attempting to learn
more about your disease by searching the Internet, reading books on the topic,
or speaking with various health care professionals, beware of overwhelming
yourself with too much information all at once.
Be patient when learning information about your disease. When a
serious illness is first diagnosed, it's not always possible to pinpoint its
scope. Often, additional tests or even surgery is required to fully
understand the extent of an illness and related health problems. It may take
weeks or even months to determine the proper or complete course of
"Initially, it's hard to find information that's sufficiently tailored
to your condition," Gruman tells WebMD. "It's difficult to tap a
physician's expertise at the very beginning."
While some people have a hard time not knowing exactly what to expect from
an illness, recognizing up front that it may take some time can help quell
anxiety. In the interim, don't dwell on the unknown at the expense of your
well-being, advises Gruman. "Make sure you continue to eat enough, drink
enough water, and get the rest you need," she
Choose the support that works for you. How you come to terms with a
scary diagnosis is a very personal decision. Choosing whom to tell and lean on
for support is a significant part of the process, and there's no right or wrong
way to do it.
"You choose -- the amount of information you'll tell, and who you want
to be with you," Gruman says.
Joining a support group whose members relate to your experience can be
invaluable. Ingram went to five different support groups before finding the one
that worked for her. What began largely as a group to educate cancer patients
on the illness morphed into something much deeper. "Eventually, we showed
each other our scars, we flipped off our wigs, we laughed, we cried,"
Ingram tells WebMD.
Be open to a positive change in perspective. It's not uncommon for
survivors of a grave diagnosis to report feeling that their lives have been
made fuller by the experience, even in the wake of irrevocable physical losses.
So says Leslie Ingram Gebhart, breast cancer survivor, life coach, and
co-author of The Not-So-Scary Breast Cancer Book, who underwent a double
mastectomy. While she admits to missing the sensuality she associated with her
breasts, Gebhart has moved beyond it. "Now, the size of my bra is not
relevant," she says earnestly.
"Know that myriad joys and possibilities remain," Gebhart tells
WebMD. "Even cancer can recede into the background when focusing on
The key, it seems, is allowing yourself to be open to these possibilities.
"Whether you're going to live one more week or one more decade, you want
the quality of life to be as rich and alive as possible," says Ingram.