Fear and Fighting for Your Health
Surviving a cancer diagnosis in itself is an ultimate life changer. Moving out of the mindset of recurrences is a real fear for the majority of survivors that I speak to in focus groups. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD of the initial diagnosis, appointments, and treatments can send survivors into a tailspin and a fearful vortex of negative thoughts! It can end in an office visit with their doctor for even the most minor health related issues and general health maintenance. I have experienced many PTSD moments over the last decade. When entering a clinic or hospital to see someone else, I've experienced everything from hot flashes, to feelings of passing out, not processing what a others around me are saying and crippling anxiety.
I have my top three personal tips for working through some of the mindset roadblocks to help alleviate the stress and put you back in the driver’s seat of your overall well-being.
Shop for the right care team.
I can't STRESS this one enough. Your care team is as important as member(s) of your own family. Most people do not know that they are allowed to question their care providers. Make sure you are working with a physician that listens and assesses what you are saying. If their norm is to cut you off mid-sentence, go with what you were taught as a kid—that is just plain rude. It can be exhausting to shop, but we shop for everything else in our lives, this should be up there on the list of importance. Get multiple opinions. Now with virtual charting and e-visits, it's easier than ever to have physicians look at a diagnosis and chime in. It’s also just as easy to read physicians’ bios and profiles online. Having an intelligent, cutting-edge, loving care team makes a world of difference for your health experiences moving forward.
As hard as this can be for the majority of us, don't put your health issues all in one category. Seek the right therapist if you think you are experiencing PTSD from your diagnosis, no matter how long ago it was. It can be a crippling roadblock if it is not addressed by a professional who can help. It can be the procrastination of not visiting your physician that can cause other health suffering. Follow the rules on this one: if you are experiencing issues that last more than two weeks, make a visit. Your care team will know that you are a cancer survivor from your chart or conversation, so they can put you at ease with the appropriate testing or imaging and advise you to return if symptoms persist. It is hard to process that it could be something very simple, but it can be just that. Breath and pray for your care team to know how to best assess the situation. That is why step 1 is extremely important. Lastly, know that it is your right to ask for testing or referrals if it is not offered. There is no “I” in team, and with valid requests, your care team will support you.
Go with your intuition.
So what is intuition anyway? Well, just recently in my own health challenges, it was the deep knowing that we are close to a few possible diagnoses, but after a few weeks, I knew deep down that things were not right and that the initial diagnosis was off. So what did I do in this case? I started writing down very descriptive words and symptoms as they were happening. Many times we meet with our care team and forget details or our physician says, “you mean like this?” We say yes, not actually using or own descriptions, which can help them greatly with the process of elimination. We are also a whole body and many times pain transference can have nothing to do with the origin of the pain itself. Press for diagnostic testing or an ultrasound for a clearer prognosis and do not forget to mention other issues you may have had or are having and mention other physicians you may be seeing. Our health is putting the puzzle pieces together for the betterment of our whole self.