Original Writing by Mrs. Sara Bailey | Picture by National Cancer Institute/UnSplash | Written 11.23.2021 | Posted 01.09.2022
Mrs. Sara Bailey is a friend of the blog. A widow, she shares with the world her experiences and provides resources via her website, TheWidow.net. I am honored that Miss Sara chose my platform to share her knowledge and experience.
If you recently found out that you have an incurable disease, you are likely shocked. Your world has been turned upside down with such unexpected news, and you might be devastated. Naturally, an incurable disease diagnosis leads many of us to reshuffle our priorities. Then, the fear of what lies ahead might set in. How do you go about everyday life with this newfound knowledge? What if your relationships are negatively impacted? While there is no perfect way to respond to this type of diagnosis, there are mindsets and practices that you can adopt to make the most of each day going forward. A few ideas are listed below.
Learn About Your Condition
Researching and learning about the disease for which you were just diagnosed can help you strategize best practices moving forward, including which treatments and doctors to use. And it can help to speak with other patients who are battling your condition. However, the more you hear of other people’s stories, the scarier the future can become. Just try to learn what you need to in order to make smart decisions, but try not to become consumed with the “what ifs” that you hear from others.
One way to learn about your condition is to enter a clinical trial if one is available in your area. For example, if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you will quickly learn that it impacts memory, behavior, and overall brain function. It can also cause weight loss, disorientation, hallucinations, and other conditions. Your mind’s response to Alzheimer’s will depend on your specific chemistry as well as the stage of the disease you are in. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is not curable, but you can treat it holistically through psychotherapy, memory training, medication, and other methods.
Avoid the Tendency to Compare Yourself to Others
After a devastating diagnosis, you may often be tempted to compare your situation to those of others. To the best of your ability, try not to do so. Otherwise, you might constantly ask yourself “why me?” and form resentment for being short-changed.
You might dwell on the “what ifs” of life without your condition and how you used to enjoy lounging in the sun, going to the movies, or doing other activities that are simply not the same (or practical) now. You might feel a nagging sense of loss and start dwelling in self-pity. While it is normal and necessary to process your grief after a tough diagnosis, it is not good to live there.
Get the Help You Need
Your daily life will probably be dramatically impacted by your diagnosis. In order to maintain your well-being, you will need to make some adjustments. This starts with finding ways to significantly reduce your stress. In addition to doing your part to lower your stress levels through healthy eating and exercise, it’s important to ask for help.
At any time you become overwhelmed and at a loss, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Remember that it is okay if you cannot carry your burden all by yourself. Surround yourself with people who care, whether it is friends, family members, or professional caregivers. You deserve a quality of life, and sometimes that means asking for help from others.
Change Your Scenery
A difficult diagnosis spawns a host of thoughts and often the desire to make sweeping changes. As comforting as this might feel at the moment, it’s important not to go overboard. Change is good, but opt for measured doses to avoid unnecessary overwhelm.
For example, your first thought may be to sell your home, pack up everything and move out of the city. Rather than upend yourself completely, consider a downsize in a nearby neighborhood for the time being. This ensures you’re still close to loved ones and medical care, and it could even free up cash if you have equity in your home. The move will be the most difficult part, but if you get help with packing and hire moving services, this can be the small fresh start you need right now.
Focus on Today
It is impossible to know your specific outcome until it happens, and it’s not going to help to dwell on the uncertainties of the future. Try to focus on today, and if it’s a particularly difficult day, try to maintain hope for tomorrow. You will develop more strength as you learn to live with your condition, and there will probably be more information and treatments that surface over time. At all costs, keep your hope and learn to manage your fear.
Think About Tomorrow
As terrifying as it seems, talking about death and discussing the future can help you process your situation, and it can provide a sense of certainty and even control. Discussing funeral plans with your family, outlining your preferred type of memorial, and even addressing how to pass on cherished belongings can all be deeply cathartic, but it’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone.
Being diagnosed with an incurable disease is shocking, and you will probably need to go through a process of grief and self-reflection. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps now to get the most from your everyday life from here on out. Consider the tips above as you begin to make adjustments, and remember to focus on today and to keep hope for tomorrow.