This article was written by Patricia Raya and Corine Mogenis

You are sitting in your doctor’s office. The doctor has called you in because he has something to discuss. Your test results have come back and the doctor informs you that you have cancer or some other terrible illness

Now what?

As the doctor continues to explain your test results, your options, and the details, you sit in a daze. You can barely hear or comprehend what is being said because you are still trying to accept the very first words the doctor uttered. Thousands of thoughts run through your head as you try to figure out how to tell your family and friends — what type of doctor do you go to next, what are your specific options, what is the likelihood of success, how sick will you be, and will this disease be the cause of your death?

This is a more common scenario than most people think. We all know someone who has been in this situation. In hindsight we all wish we had approached things differently — learned more about our illness; researched options; asked more questions.

Discovering that you have an illness can be one of the most devastating and confusing times of your life. There is no way to prepare for this; however your response to this news can make all the difference. Once you get past the initial shock, you can begin to get fully involved in your care by taking hold of the reins to help guide your medical decisions and treatment.

Get informed. Being told by a physician that diagnostic tests and work-ups are going to be necessary to determine the type of illness may signal your first chance to begin your search for information. Get information about the tests you will be having and obtain information about all of the possible illnesses that the doctor is trying to rule out. This way, when your results are in, you will have some knowledge about the illness you are diagnosed with. The knowledge you have acquired will enable you to ask appropriate questions and help you understand what to expect next.

Get a buddy. Having a close friend or family member involved in your medical appointments and your decision-making is extremely helpful. This person may understand parts of the discussions that you did not, or may ask certain questions that you didn’t think to ask. By being together you will get a better understanding of your illness and the treatments available.

Trying to understand and process all of the information on your own can be overwhelming. Having another individual present will make sure that nothing is missed and that questions will be asked. Also, your friend or relative can offer emotional support, which is a huge part of making this challenging time more bearable.

Get in touch. Once you comprehend the news that you have been diagnosed with an illness, you should not be afraid to talk to others about it. You will find that you are not alone. Your neighbor, colleague, friend, or even an acquaintance either knows someone with the same illness or may even have had experience with it herself. This is another excellent way to obtain more information. Through discussions, you will share your concerns and feelings, and also learn more about the illness. You can find names of specialized hospitals, physicians, and treatment options.

You might also learn about someone who went through what you are about to go through who came out with flying colors. Hearing these stories can give you additional support and hope, which is another key to recovery.

Get a second opinion. Especially when the diagnosis is a serious one, consulting with another physician or specialist is an easy way of confirming your treatment options or showing you that there may be more options available. All good physicians will welcome a second opinion.

Patricia Raya is president of PAR Enterprises: Legal Nurse Consultants at 30 Washington Avenue, Princeton (www.par-nurseconsultants.com). She holds a bachelor’s from Rutgers, a nursing degree from Raritan Valley College, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix.

Corine Mogenis is a medical malpractice paralegal at a law firm in northern New Jersey. She studied medical laboratory technology at Kean and received her paralegal certification from ICS.

“Medical Tips from the Inside” is published by Merit Publishing International of Jupiter, Florida, and is available for $13.95 through major booksellers. The authors will hold a book signing on Saturday, June 14, at 1 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Route 130, in Hamilton.

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