Being diagnosed with a life-altering disease is no easy
experience. In the case of cancer, fear is often one of the first
things a person experiences upon receiving a diagnosis. There's a
blank moment and then the realization of how one's life may change
sinks in and fear takes over, often for a long time. Many people
don't really recall what was said during the discussion after
hearing the diagnosis.
Communicating about fear is also no easy task. The diagnosis
often indicates profound life changes. Health care providers (and
health care communicators) need to have an understanding of the
nature and origin of fear and the persistent worry their patients
They are instrumental in guiding patients to overcome shock and
fear and to properly engage them in treatment.
Fear may prevent a patient from effectively handling their
diagnosis, making it even more essential for health care providers
and communicators to be there for them. According to the College of
Nursing at Michigan State University, "
Nurses who are comfortable with listening for and discussing
existentially related concerns may be in a better position to
promote the patient's psychological adaptation."
Here are a few tips to share with patients to help them
deal with a difficult diagnosis:
Start a diary or take
notes and share it with the health care team: Being
fearful or nervous may make it hard to remember things. Patients
may find it helpful to write down their feelings or ideas and then
bring the diary or notes to the doctor visits. Writing things down
can help ensure all concerns are addressed during the visit. Taking
notes during visits can also help patients and doctors avoid
miscommunication about health care issues.
Talk to people with similar experience:
Although each patient may have a variety of feeling and will handle
them in a different way, it is important to learn from others.
People with the same or similar diagnosis could be a good resource
for coping strategies. Patients could benefit from joining a
support group or checking out a blog specific to their health
Health care providers play an essential role in helping patients
deal with their fear. It is important to understand the fear
patients may experience and be there for them as listeners and
advisors. Talking to someone who understands how patients are
feeling is the best way to handle fear.