As many of you know, I’ve been adjusting to life after a diagnosis of CRPS in my left foot and lower leg. A chronic illness changes everything. But the advice below from Wellness Warrior Lisa Douthit is excellent. Go slow, get help, and do what you can to Take Care… of yourself, your spirit, and your business.
The Best Advice You’ll Get After A Diagnosis
Originally posted October 5, 2016 By Lisa Douthit, Wellness Warrior
Getting a diagnosis of any kind is stupid scary.
When you hear words like, ‘Cancer’ or ‘Chronic Illness’ come out of a doctors mouth, it’s easy to let fear to take over causing your body and mind to go on overload.
I remember the first time I had cancer. I was 26 years old and went to see my family physician to get some cream for an unsightly rash on my arm.
I didn’t think much about wanting to run a few tests because he was always looking to earn a few extra bucks with labs. What I never expected was to be sitting across from him a week later as we was showing me the baseball size tumor sitting on my heart and giving me a referral to an oncologist. I heard something about limited options and positive odds, but there was too much noise from the screaming I heard in my head to really understand what he was saying.
The next couple weeks where a blur of well wishers informing me of secret diets and bad tasting herbs that cured my particular cancer. What was even worse was listening to untold stories of somebody’s aunt or cousin that was cured spontaneously. Since that didn’t seem to be happening for me, it just made me feel bad.
People mean well, but there is some really bad recommendations of what to take or do out there in the world. Through six different diagnosis’s of cancer and autoimmune disease, I feel like I’ve experienced them all.
I’ve heard it all over the years and sifted through the bad advice to find the gold nuggets.
Here’s the best advice you’ll get after a diagnosis
1. Slow down there partner – Panic is an easy ‘go to’ when you hear terrible news. Your body automatically goes into a fight or flight response when you’re scared which is why you want to run out of the room screaming. Remember to breathe. When you feel the rush of adrenaline coursing through your body close your eyes and take 10 deep breathes. This pattern interrupt is scientifically proven to chemically change the stress response you feel in your body and get you out of freak out mode. I still do this exercise whenever I need to get labs or tests done to keep calm and carry on.
2. Do your homework – The first thing your doctor may tell you is to NOT google your diagnosis. Although there is a lot of information that may not be in your best interest on the internet, I think it is important get as much information possible about your disease. Also, make sure you take notes and have a list of questions to ask at your next doctor’s visit.
3. Don’t be too quick to share your news – Hearing that a loved one has serious health issues can be traumatizing. I spent much of my time in the early phase of diagnosis consoling my friends and family and reassuring them that I would be alright. It was even more exhausting than having to deal with my own concerns. Feel free to spread your horrible news to the grocery checker, the postman, or clerk at the dry cleaner but don’t tell anyone that you truly care about until you are emotionally ready. It may fell unbearable to not blurt it out at the dinner table but sit with your diagnosis for a moment until you are strong enough to handle them. Remember, they are scared too, be patient.
4. Find a doctor that will participate in your wellness not your illness – Many health professionals are treating the illness, not the person. If you doctor is checking his watch or dismissing your concerns, do not hesitate to find another one. They work for you, not the other way around. Even in HMO’s you can request a different practitioner if you are not getting your needs met.
5. Clean your house – There is no room for energy drainers in your life right now. Unload activities or people that aren’t serving you. It’s time to unapologetically put you first and clean out anyone or anything that is cluttering your life with drama.
6. Get uplifting support by folks that understand – Not all support groups are created equal. Some like to wallow in misery. FaceBook as some great private groups that are filled with people just like yourself. Find the one that fits the best and get to know the people there. They can also answer your questions about symptoms better than medical professionals sometimes because they have physical experience with them. Doctors only have book knowledge about your disease.
7. Don’t be afraid to explore other options – Stay grounded in your treatment but don’t neglect other possibilities to treat your whole body. I found many complementary modalities to help speed my recovery. There is more out there than pills. Find what works best for you.
8. Clean your internal house too – Your body needs all the loving support it can get. Take a deep dive into your kitchen pantry and get rid of anything with more than three ingredients on the label. Would you put cheap gas in a Rolls Royce? Start eating more real foods that come from the earth and juicing vegetables. For more tips and recipes check out these resources.
9. Ask yourself this question: “What if this were happening for me and not to me?” – We’ve all bellied up the the pity party bar at some point and poured ourselves a strong one. Once that is done and you are ready to move forward with your recovery, it’s time to turn your medical trauma into wisdom. Ask yourself why this is happening for you and the lesson will reveal itself. Then follow the answer to find your deeper meaning.
10. Never lose hope – Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” He also said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never.” No matter what your diagnosis, keep moving forward in your search for wellness. You may not be perfectly healthy but you can always strive to be the best version of yourself no matter where you are in your healing journey.
About Lisa Douthit Wellness Warrior
Lisa Douthit is the author of Amazon’s #1 bestselling book, Wellness Warrior – Fighting for Life in Fabulous Shoes and a Master Healer who is passionate about healing from all perspectives. After struggling with multiple bouts of cancer and autoimmune disease, she understands the physical, spiritual, and emotional pain you feel and has made it her mission to have a voice for all those with an invisible illness. She learned how to be well without perfect health and wants to share her knowledge so we can all live the life we’ve been dreaming of. She has a private Facebook Group called Wellness Warrior Tribe for all those with chronic illness looking for support and encouragement.
There is a Chinese maxim: “Eat Bitter” or “Eating Bitterness”, known as Chi Ku. It is a Chinese phrase for enduring hardship. It means to endure something unpleasant or to continue in spite of pain, creating strength of character. Back in my teaching days I had a principal, Mr. Fong, who kept a bowl of candy on his desk. Whenever a student (or teacher!) was in his office for disciplinary reasons, he would offer the bowl. He’d explain that it was a Chinese custom to offer something sweet to soften the blow of something bitter or hard. Enduring pain and grief can be a chi ku experience. You don’t want to live on a diet of bitterness, but remember that good comes with the bad, blessing in the midst of trial, joy comes after the dark night of the soul.
I rolled my knee walker up to the desk at my departing gate and approached the attendant. Politely, I waited while he typed, answered a phone call, typed some more, and discussed matters of importance with a colleague. Eventually I spoke up, “Excuse me, can you answer a couple quick questions?”
“Just a moment” he said without looking up from his screen. He kept right on typing.
I waited a bit longer. Soon I needed to put my weight on my knee walker and considered sitting down on it when pain started shooting up my “good” leg, but knew I had better not. The attendant wouldn’t be able to see me from behind his desk, and ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
After a few more minutes he spoke to me. Well, he spoke while looking at his computer screen, but I guessed that his words were directed at me.
“What do you need.”
Hmmm. That was a loaded question! A new foot? better pain management? a bit of lunch would be fine, thank you! I settled for, “Can I get a valet tag from you?”
“We aren’t offering valet service on this flight. If your bag is too big to be stowed in the cabin you will have to check it.” He was still looking at his computer screen.
“Do I need to check my knee walker? I generally roll down the jetway…”
I backed up a bit so he could see my fully tricked out knee walker complete with an extra padded seat, horn, and cup holder.
“Oh you’re ADA.” Looking back at his computer.
“Regulations require that we offer you wheelchair assistance. Can you walk?”
“Only a few steps.”
He stepped around his desk to put the valet tag on my walker and then quickly back to his screen. He resumed typing.
“Which leg is affected.”
Hmmmm. Another tricky question. Technically my whole body is affected – but I settled for “It’s my left foot,” pointing to the naked, red, puffy lump at the end of my leg.
“What is your seat assignment?”
“Regulations require that you sit with your good leg on the outside toward the aisle.”
He was still looking at his computer.
“I need to have a left window seat to…”
“FAA requires you to be able to get out of your seat with your good leg.”
“I understand. That actually works out. I need to keep my foot away from the aisle and other passengers. It’s very sensitive…” He was already talking.
“If it is your left foot, you will need to sit on the left side of the plane.”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“Do I need to change your seat assignment?”
“No, I’m in 12A – seat A is on the left — rrright?” I said with a smile – attempting but failing to bring some humor into this conversation.
The attendant did not smile.
“Seats A and B are on the left and seats C, D, and E are on the right. You are in the correct seat for your disability.
Ouch. He used that “D” word.
“Do you need assistance down the jetway?”
“No I can make it if there aren’t any steps.”
“Regulations require that we offer you wheelchair assistance should you need it.”
“I can make it if there aren’t any steps.”
“I will need to accompany you down the jetway then.” He was already walking toward the entrance.
“I don’t…” I really didn’t need or want this humorless robot accompanying me anywhere, but he was already at the doorway.
I rolled over to the jetway and down the tunnel toward the plane. The attendant followed a few steps behind me. He watched without a word as I pushed my way up an incline. He waited as I balanced on my good leg when metal strips made the walker wobble. It was a workout, but it felt good to be moving on my own.
At the entrance to the plane, I stopped and began to collapse my walker, securing the handle bars with a bright green bungee cord. And then I took a limping step toward the plane.
“Wait!” The attendant was still with me. “You can’t walk in there with your foot bare. It’s a health hazard.”
I began to explain, “I have a medical condition…”
“FAA regulations require all passengers have their feet covered.”
“I’ve been unable to wear anything, a sock or a shoe, for over a year…”
I decided it was my turn to interrupt him.
“If I could wear something on my foot, I would. I am traveling to see a doctor who thinks he might be able to treat this condition.” My voice raised in exasperation.
A steward on the plane overheard our conversation and stuck his head out the door. He made eye contact with me. He smiled at me.
“The ADA trumps the FAA – come on board.” With a wave of his hand, he invited me to board the plane. I stepped forward and I didn’t look back.
Once in my seat I wondered about the steward’s comment. ADA trumps FAA. So under the Americans with Disabilities Act, my rights as a “disabled” person trump the safety rules and regulations created by the Federal Aviation Agency designed to protect all passengers? That couldn’t be right. I had to ask. When the steward came to check on me I asked.
“Is it true that the ADA trumps the FAA?”
He shook his head with a grin, “No ma’am – but I could see you needed to get off that foot and on this plane. No one here cares a bit if your foot is bare.” He gave a laugh, “I bet Phil is back at the gate researching the regs right now! But you’re safe. The door is closed.”
I sat back and watched as our plane pulled away from the gate and considered the difference between the law and grace.
The law creates hoops to jump through and places them impossibly high, just out of reach.
Grace creates a path around the hoops.
The law slaps you with labels with industrial strength adhesive, labels that make you wince and feel small, inept, disregarded.
Grace frees you from those labels and embraces you with endearing words of comfort.
The law coldly closes the door in the face your failure to measure up. It despises your weakness and is immune to your pain.
Grace throws the door wide, and waves you in with a warm smile. It pulls up a chair and offers to bathe your aching feet in cool water.
The law is a slave master, a cruelly demanding instructor, an unrelenting drill sergeant who never lets up the pressure.
Grace is a tender lover, a nurturing parent, a kind hand.
The law rejects, but grace connects.
Lord, thank you for Your grace. Thank you for all the times I was surprised by a kind, warm smile and gentle hand. Help me to be more gracious. Help me to graciously love those who cling to the law out of fear and insecurity. Give me the courage to be slow to reject and quick to connect.