It’s a moment we all fear: when your doctor enters the room, closes the door, and says, “I have some bad news.” Learning you have a serious illness or condition can be devastating, but the emotional and psychological turbulence you experience following that initial shock can often make you feel worse. But they don’t have to.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or high blood pressure, gaining a good understanding of what comes next is an important first step to taking control of your health.
1. Ask questions
The more you know, the better you can prepare yourself (and loved ones) for any fight you have ahead of you. Ask your physician to explain your condition. Ask about next steps. Ask about support groups or future medical care. If you don’t understand, keep asking.
2. Discuss treatment options
Will you require a hospital stay, hospital or clinic visits, or will you have a take-home therapy you pick up at your local pharmacy? Are there programs you can be referred to, such as Patient Support Programs? Be sure to ask your physician about possible side effects and be sure to mention any other medications you’re taking.
3. Let it sink in
You don’t need to spring into action. Even if your diagnosis requires prompt treatment, give yourself time to process the information you’ve received. Remember – it’s OK to experience a wide range of emotions during this time.
4. Research reimbursement support to help cover costs
If you have public or private insurance coverage, call your plan administrator or log into your online account (if possible) to see if your drug plan covers the therapy or therapies you’ve been prescribed. Be sure to ask your physician or pharmacist about patient support programs you may be eligible for – like innoviCares – that can help alleviate some of the financial burden associated with your medications and healthcare products.
5. Seize control
With your treatment plan in place, it’s time to take the bull by the horns for the good of your health. Understand what you can do outside of your medical treatment to support your wellness, from meeting special dietary needs to getting more exercise.
6. Recruit your “A” Team
Choose one person as your go-to partner for emotional support, and another person to help you deal with more practical matters such as assisting with transportation, tracking appointments, and managing any therapies (ie. Prescriptions) you require.
7. Resist redefining yourself
After a tough diagnosis, it can be easy to lose your own identity in the shadow of the disease: suddenly you’re no longer you, but the disease you have. You don’t need to immediately refer to yourself as a “fighter” or a “survivor” – particularly if that’s not how you’re feeling. As your treatment progresses, it’s OK to turn your daily conversation to something other than your health if you’re ready.