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How to handle bad medical news

How you respond to bad news from the doctor can change your life as much as the diagnosis can.
“I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy — HOCM,” says J. Thomas Shaw, author of a novel inspired by his experience, The RX Factor (theRXFactor.com). “Whenever you hear about a young athlete in exceptional condition dropping dead during a game or near the end of a hard practice, the autopsy usually reveals that was the cause.”
Shaw offers tips for people who receive unwelcome medical news:
* A second opinion: “Emotion kicks in immediately when you get a potentially life-ending diagnosis, and many people don’t bother getting a second or third opinion. They consider that denial, or wishful thinking,” he says. Doctors are human – they make mistakes. Even if the diagnosis doesn’t change, another physician may suggest a different course of treatment. Try to arrange a visit with a specialist at a nationally renowned research hospital.
* Empower yourself with knowledge: The internet is filled with good information, but the trick for research is avoiding the sea of misinformation online. There are many studies from various universities to be found, and sites including WebMD.com are reliable sources.
* The wake-up call response: For many, knowledge of a difficult medical condition is a reminder to finally implement a healthier lifestyle. Some patients turn around their lifestyle completely with regular exercise, a balanced diet with nutrition as the primary focus, and restricting or completely abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes. This can have amazing results.
* Positive thinking / a focus on what matters: At some point, we all must face that we are mortal beings with limited resources, Shaw says. Sometimes, a good attitude is the best, if not only, weapon for facing terminal illness or a lifelong disability. Taking stock of what’s important, such as loved ones, is that positive x-factor that science has difficulty in measuring as a tangible health benefit — but it is nonetheless.

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Published: August 30, 2012 – Volume 11 – Issue 20



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