If you or someone you love receives a difficult diagnosis, your first instinct may be to jump into action to make the problem go away. You may try to grasp at the first treatment option that you hear about, or latch onto a treatment that someone you know has been through. As a health advocate, I believe you need to make the best decisions you can about your healthcare. And that means being as well-informed as possible about your options.
I do not believe in just accepting a diagnosis. For me, that is the equivalent of giving up. It’s a dead end. I do believe in managing my own health to get the best possible outcome, no matter what diagnosis I have received. That means doing whatever it takes to manage my symptoms, my healthcare, my treatments, and my own attitude.
Part of not accepting a diagnosis is recognizing that just because one doctor believes something is true does not make it right. I absolutely believe in getting a second, or even third or fourth opinion, if you receive a diagnosis of a serious illness. Even if you are lying in a hospital bed, ask for a second opinion. Any doctor who is truly concerned about your well-being will honor your request, and probably welcome the second set of eyes to confirm the diagnosis, or suggest other alternatives. Asking for a second opinion does not mean you think your doctor is wrong. It just means you are looking for more information to help you make an informed decision about your healthcare.
Being informed is critical when you have a serious illness. You need to understand as much as possible about the condition: what causes it, what you can expect to happen to your health, and what your options are for treatment. Talking to your doctor is part of this process. He or she can explain what your tests show and what it means. If you don’t understand, ask questions.
When you get your second opinion, ask more questions. Even if you thought you understood everything from the first doctor, your second doctor may choose different words or use different examples that will help you understand the condition and treatments better. That’s a big plus for you!