Survivorship Tips: The Waiting Room
Speaker: Sharsheret’s Clinical Supervisor Shera Dubitsky, MEd, MA
By now, you are all experts in the art of waiting – waiting for test results, waiting for your next appointment with your doctor, and waiting to see if treatment is effective. Many of you have reported that the waiting can seem more difficult than having the information. In attempt to manage your fears and anxieties, I have found that most of you fall somewhere along the spectrum of Confronter vs. Sidestepper.
Your nature and style of coping is to be more proactive. You often choose to discuss your feelings with people who can offer you support. You feel empowered by doing research and preparing yourself for possible outcomes. You face your fears by asking yourself the following questions:
• What am I most afraid of hearing?
• How would I change my life based on the results?
• What is my plan if my worst fear becomes reality?
You most likely choose not to talk about the anticipated news. You prefer to distract yourself. You let people know that conversations need to be a cancer-free zone. Research on the Internet heightens your anxiety.
Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, here are some tips to help you cope while waiting:
• If you feel like speaking about your worries or concerns, choose people who won’t heighten your anxiety by asking unwanted questions or offering unsolicited advice. Let people know what you need from them.
• Try to coordinate your scans and blood work in conjunction with your doctor appointments. Having face-to-face discussions with your treatment team as opposed to receiving news over the phone may feel more comforting.
• If the scans don’t correspond with your doctor appointments, alert the office staff that you are waiting for test results and let them know that you would appreciate hearing from the doctor as soon as the results are in.
• Demonstrate a good learning curve. Rely on strategies that were helpful in the past.
• Focus on the “what now’s” and not the “what if’s.”
• How you are feeling is just as important as any test result. If you are feeling good and you are engaging in your typical activities, try not to let test results change your perception of how you are functioning.
• Decide if it is helpful to have someone with you when you receive news. This varies based on individual preferences.
• Leave time to digest the information. Try to arrange it so that you are not returning to work or engaging in familial responsibilities immediately after meeting with your doctor.
• If the anxiety seems overwhelming, speak with your doctor.
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