When the News from the Doctor Is Bad

Reviewed Apr 7, 2017

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Summary

  • Have hope.
  • Have faith.
  • Get support from others.

After reviewing my MRI, my doctor said hesitantly, “This might be a brain tumor.” I was stunned—then angry. I thought, why is she being so vague? Is it, or is it not, a brain tumor? I wanted my doctor to tell me straight out so I would know with what I was dealing. I spent the next few minutes in a sort of time warp trying to grasp the enormity of what she was saying. I could barely move or speak or think.

Afterward, I sat in my kitchen and felt the deep isolation that only another person who has ever heard similar words could know. I was paralyzed with fear. I thought, I'm only 51; I'm not ready to die. But I wasn’t exactly sure what I was afraid of.

After some time passed, I realized I had no way to categorize how I felt. What does it mean to hear that you have something that might kill you? What am I supposed to do now? I thought, this can’t be happening.

For the next four hours I sat at the computer researching brain tumors until I was completely overwhelmed, frustrated, and emotionally and physically drained. It did not ease my fear. It only increased the sense that I was not in control. I felt alone and terrified. I kept thinking, what am I going to do now?  
—Claudia

Shock, disbelief, and denial

Some of the reality in life is simply too painful or scary for people to deal with all at once. Claudia heard the words brain tumor but could not understand the gravity of those words, so she sat stunned and alone. As reality sinks in, denial fights back and keeps people from dwelling on things that take over emotions.

It is hard to think about death, disability, or serious illness happening to you or to someone close to you. It’s too scary to think of, or talk about. So when the news from the doctor is bad, the first response may be shock and disbelief. “This can’t be happening,” you may say to yourself. But it can. Are people ever ready for bad news? Likely not. It shows that life is shorter and more fragile than you thought it would be.

The emotional flood

After denial comes a flood of emotions. Anger, fear, depression, hopelessness, and even guilt are all very common ones.

But everyone deals with these things differently. You may be filled with gratitude and peace one moment. You can then be crippled by fear the next. It is important to not try to fit real suffering into some emotional model or psychological concept. Simply put, people are more complex than this. However you respond to bad news is normal for you.

Fear, hope, and faith

Fear is perhaps the hardest emotion to deal with. Fear of the unknown, death, treatment, and disability—and fear for loved ones—is usual. Hope and faith help people get through fear. In his book, The Vital Balance, psychiatrist Karl Meninger wrote about hope in dealing with his patients:

“It is our duty as physicians to estimate probabilities and to discipline expectations. But leading away from probabilities there are paths of possibility, toward which it is also our duty to hold aloft a light. And the name of that light is hope.”

Hope is the promise that even if things look bad, life can turn on a dime. Hope gives meaning and the chance to make each day count. Faith, like hope, is a belief in things unseen. For many it is belief in God or higher power. For others, it is a belief in the power of love itself through the care of family and friends. Faith tells us that we are never alone in our suffering, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Don’t go it alone

The irony of bad health news is that it often brings out the best in people. A longing for closeness and real intimacy with loved ones and disdain for wasting time are common but welcome results of serious illness. Allow friends and family to reach out and love you. Being with those that care is perhaps the best medicine of all.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS

Summary

  • Have hope.
  • Have faith.
  • Get support from others.

After reviewing my MRI, my doctor said hesitantly, “This might be a brain tumor.” I was stunned—then angry. I thought, why is she being so vague? Is it, or is it not, a brain tumor? I wanted my doctor to tell me straight out so I would know with what I was dealing. I spent the next few minutes in a sort of time warp trying to grasp the enormity of what she was saying. I could barely move or speak or think.

Afterward, I sat in my kitchen and felt the deep isolation that only another person who has ever heard similar words could know. I was paralyzed with fear. I thought, I'm only 51; I'm not ready to die. But I wasn’t exactly sure what I was afraid of.

After some time passed, I realized I had no way to categorize how I felt. What does it mean to hear that you have something that might kill you? What am I supposed to do now? I thought, this can’t be happening.

For the next four hours I sat at the computer researching brain tumors until I was completely overwhelmed, frustrated, and emotionally and physically drained. It did not ease my fear. It only increased the sense that I was not in control. I felt alone and terrified. I kept thinking, what am I going to do now?  
—Claudia

Shock, disbelief, and denial

Some of the reality in life is simply too painful or scary for people to deal with all at once. Claudia heard the words brain tumor but could not understand the gravity of those words, so she sat stunned and alone. As reality sinks in, denial fights back and keeps people from dwelling on things that take over emotions.

It is hard to think about death, disability, or serious illness happening to you or to someone close to you. It’s too scary to think of, or talk about. So when the news from the doctor is bad, the first response may be shock and disbelief. “This can’t be happening,” you may say to yourself. But it can. Are people ever ready for bad news? Likely not. It shows that life is shorter and more fragile than you thought it would be.

The emotional flood

After denial comes a flood of emotions. Anger, fear, depression, hopelessness, and even guilt are all very common ones.

But everyone deals with these things differently. You may be filled with gratitude and peace one moment. You can then be crippled by fear the next. It is important to not try to fit real suffering into some emotional model or psychological concept. Simply put, people are more complex than this. However you respond to bad news is normal for you.

Fear, hope, and faith

Fear is perhaps the hardest emotion to deal with. Fear of the unknown, death, treatment, and disability—and fear for loved ones—is usual. Hope and faith help people get through fear. In his book, The Vital Balance, psychiatrist Karl Meninger wrote about hope in dealing with his patients:

“It is our duty as physicians to estimate probabilities and to discipline expectations. But leading away from probabilities there are paths of possibility, toward which it is also our duty to hold aloft a light. And the name of that light is hope.”

Hope is the promise that even if things look bad, life can turn on a dime. Hope gives meaning and the chance to make each day count. Faith, like hope, is a belief in things unseen. For many it is belief in God or higher power. For others, it is a belief in the power of love itself through the care of family and friends. Faith tells us that we are never alone in our suffering, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Don’t go it alone

The irony of bad health news is that it often brings out the best in people. A longing for closeness and real intimacy with loved ones and disdain for wasting time are common but welcome results of serious illness. Allow friends and family to reach out and love you. Being with those that care is perhaps the best medicine of all.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS

Summary

  • Have hope.
  • Have faith.
  • Get support from others.

After reviewing my MRI, my doctor said hesitantly, “This might be a brain tumor.” I was stunned—then angry. I thought, why is she being so vague? Is it, or is it not, a brain tumor? I wanted my doctor to tell me straight out so I would know with what I was dealing. I spent the next few minutes in a sort of time warp trying to grasp the enormity of what she was saying. I could barely move or speak or think.

Afterward, I sat in my kitchen and felt the deep isolation that only another person who has ever heard similar words could know. I was paralyzed with fear. I thought, I'm only 51; I'm not ready to die. But I wasn’t exactly sure what I was afraid of.

After some time passed, I realized I had no way to categorize how I felt. What does it mean to hear that you have something that might kill you? What am I supposed to do now? I thought, this can’t be happening.

For the next four hours I sat at the computer researching brain tumors until I was completely overwhelmed, frustrated, and emotionally and physically drained. It did not ease my fear. It only increased the sense that I was not in control. I felt alone and terrified. I kept thinking, what am I going to do now?  
—Claudia

Shock, disbelief, and denial

Some of the reality in life is simply too painful or scary for people to deal with all at once. Claudia heard the words brain tumor but could not understand the gravity of those words, so she sat stunned and alone. As reality sinks in, denial fights back and keeps people from dwelling on things that take over emotions.

It is hard to think about death, disability, or serious illness happening to you or to someone close to you. It’s too scary to think of, or talk about. So when the news from the doctor is bad, the first response may be shock and disbelief. “This can’t be happening,” you may say to yourself. But it can. Are people ever ready for bad news? Likely not. It shows that life is shorter and more fragile than you thought it would be.

The emotional flood

After denial comes a flood of emotions. Anger, fear, depression, hopelessness, and even guilt are all very common ones.

But everyone deals with these things differently. You may be filled with gratitude and peace one moment. You can then be crippled by fear the next. It is important to not try to fit real suffering into some emotional model or psychological concept. Simply put, people are more complex than this. However you respond to bad news is normal for you.

Fear, hope, and faith

Fear is perhaps the hardest emotion to deal with. Fear of the unknown, death, treatment, and disability—and fear for loved ones—is usual. Hope and faith help people get through fear. In his book, The Vital Balance, psychiatrist Karl Meninger wrote about hope in dealing with his patients:

“It is our duty as physicians to estimate probabilities and to discipline expectations. But leading away from probabilities there are paths of possibility, toward which it is also our duty to hold aloft a light. And the name of that light is hope.”

Hope is the promise that even if things look bad, life can turn on a dime. Hope gives meaning and the chance to make each day count. Faith, like hope, is a belief in things unseen. For many it is belief in God or higher power. For others, it is a belief in the power of love itself through the care of family and friends. Faith tells us that we are never alone in our suffering, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Don’t go it alone

The irony of bad health news is that it often brings out the best in people. A longing for closeness and real intimacy with loved ones and disdain for wasting time are common but welcome results of serious illness. Allow friends and family to reach out and love you. Being with those that care is perhaps the best medicine of all.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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