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Coping While You Wait For Medical Test Results

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It's the least cancer-y thing, and it's given me a huge boost, not to mention encouraging others.”

Her 26th radiation treatment was June 5, and her last one is on June 15, where she’ll be giving away a wedding dress.

Nancy Irwin, a therapist and clinical hypnotist, has six suggestions for people who are waiting for test results to come back.

1) “The best way to get through that agony is to focus on others,” Irwin said. “It is the opposite of fixating on yourself, for you have done everything you can and now it is time to release. So do something for others. The further from ‘you’ it is, the better. Go serve at a soup kitchen, deliver food to AIDS patients, clean up the environment, etc. Or go visit an elderly person who is lonely. Selfless giving will allow you to release like nothing else can.”

2) “Physical exertion helps, as well. Work out, play tennis with a friend, T-ball with your kid, etc.”

3) “Change something in your environment if you can. Rearrange the furniture, paint a room, reline your drawers. This can give you a fresh perspective and lift your spirits, giving you something that you can control at this time.”

4) “Get a massage or a manicure. Buy yourself some fresh flowers. Nurturing the self at this time goes a long way in calming you.”

5) “Watch comedies. You are almost guaranteed to get your mind off yourself for a few moments when you are laughing.”

6) “And remember to focus on ‘What if everything is really OK?’ vs. the negative ‘what ifs.’”

How have you coped with waiting for medical test results to come back? If you thought you would get negative results, how did you prepare for that?


Garcia-Arcement, Nerina. Email interview. June 5, 2012.

Ashwood, Elissa. Email interview. June 5, 2012.

Irwin, Nancy. Email interview. June 5, 2012.

Reviewed June 6, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I appreciate the practical advice, like serving others to take my mind off myself. I also really like what a previous commenter said: “I am ready and willing to do whatever I must to be well.” That is a good mantra for this period of waiting.

Here are a few other ideas I’ve found helpful:
1. Listen to music I liked when I was a child/teen.
2. Meet up with a friend who doesn’t know about my medical issues so I can enjoy a totally unrelated conversation.
3. Constantly make new plans, small and large, for later today, tomorrow, next week, etc.
4. Work on a project that requires a lot of mental focus.
5. Listen to guided meditation recordings.

September 22, 2018 - 6:28pm
EmpowHER Guest

Good advice, still easier said than done. But I am trying. Mostly I try to remind myself that being upset all the time can actually make you ill, and, no matter what the answer is, I am ready and willing to do whatever I must to be well. And it really does make me ill just to think about it. The moment my doctor called me and told me I needed to come in to discuss my labs I felt literally sick to my stomach and have had bouts of it every since that moment. I know that's not good for me so I have to focus on other things as often as I can. I also try to think about the other, less traumatic things my problem could turn out to be. Still, the fears seep in, especially when I am alone or at night. I am a mother of school age children and I am not ready to check out! Like I said, all good advice here, but easier said than done ;) still, I'll give it a try.

April 4, 2016 - 11:51am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for the article. Very useful to read advice from those who have been there.

August 21, 2013 - 3:25am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks, this is so helpful! I'm currently waiting for some results and I'm trying not to do what I did the last time I was waiting which was to get totally depressed and down and stressed. That is why I am researching ways to handle things differently this time around!

June 5, 2013 - 2:10pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.