If you have received a difficult diagnosis, you may feel like you are alone in a sea of information and decisions without a life raft. My first advice to you is not to try to go it alone! No matter what diagnosis you received, there are other people in the world who have the same thing. Every one of them started right where you are – confused and afraid. And many of them will be happy to share their journey with you as you learn about your condition and explore your options for treatment.
Statistics show that people do better overall and heal faster when they have the support of a group of people in a similar situation. So I recommend building your support network by starting with people you can relate to. You need to find people who have the same condition who can talk to you on your level – patient to patient. One great place to find those people is by checking out support groups. Depending on where you live, you may find a group meeting just down the street, or you may need to turn to the internet.
Support groups typically include people ranging from those who were just diagnosed with a condition to those who have survived and thrived through treatment. Many people who have moved on with their lives continue to participate in support groups because they find that sharing their journey and helping others through the process is an important part of their own healing.
My friend and fellow health advocate Pat Elliott is a perfect example of this. Pat has a rare type of leukemia that was difficult to treat. She explained to me that helping others with their condition was an important part of her healing process. Pat says, “One of the best things you can do if you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition is to connect with others. Through online support groups, you can quickly meet others who can serve as mentors, sounding boards, resources and more.”
When Pat was diagnosed with cancer, she lived in a community with limited access to the kinds of specialists she needed. She was able to build an online resource group of fellow patients around the world who helped her explore her treatment options. She credits the advice she received from these people with helping her chose the best option for treatment that ultimately saved her life. Now, Pat acts as a mentor to others going through similar illnesses.
Pat was able to take advantage of the experiences of other people who had already gone through treatment to help her make an informed decision. I believe talking to others who are ahead of you on the path to recovery is an important step. But it is also very important to recognize that no two people have the exact same illness. Even if your diagnosis is the same, your bodies are different, your health prior to the diagnosis was different, and your potential reactions to treatment will be different. So don’t expect to have the exact same experience in treatment as anyone else that you talk to. You need to decide what is best for you based on your own condition and overall health. But you can use the experiences of others to help clarify your options and to help you find out what living with the disease is really like from people who have already gone through it.
I believe that having a healthy attitude and positive outlook is an important factor in healing. Participating in a support group can help you maintain your perspective on your illness and can give you opportunities to give back to your community. In a support group, you will receive information and you will also have the chance to share your own experiences and the wisdom you learn along the way with people coming into the group after you.
Giving back to someone else is a sign of a healthy attitude that can help fuel your recovery. I know that helping others is a key to my own healing – it’s a positive charge that improves my body and my spirit. So if you have a difficult diagnosis, I encourage you to be your own best possible health advocate by connecting with others who can help you on the road to healing and who can provide you with opportunities to pass on your experiences to others.