Posted by Summer Katz, LMHC, Patient Advocate
A little while ago, I began experiencing new and unwanted symptoms in comparison to what is normal for me. I briefly considered whether these symptoms could be short-lived and situational, and after recognizing that the symptoms would return, or did not seem to resolve, I decided to contact my cystic fibrosis clinic and medical team.
Prior to receiving the results of my recent labwork, I thought to myself there might be two distinct outcomes in this case; either this too will be nothing of significance, or my assumptions would be correct. So, I kept asking myself… “Do I have Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes (CFRD)?” I began thinking and actually over-focusing on the perception that, “Certainly, I must have his condition,” and I even needed to speak with a few friends and family about my thoughts and worries.
Many doctors have shared with me the stereotypical statistics. Some have even said, “Most people who are taking the anti-rejection medications and steroid regimen after transplantation will usually end up with diabetes.”
Adjusting to a new diagnosis is not a new concept for me, however I can certainly acknowledge the difficulty in receiving the unwanted outcome for the first time. For instance, I remember the moment, many years ago, that I was told that my Dexa Bone-Density scan came back conclusive for the osteoporosis diagnosis.
While I did not experience pain and I knew that this did not mean that I would be required to go through various invasive medical procedures, for some reason, I recall breaking down in tears based on the overwhelming feeling of frustration that there was yet another thing that I had to manage. I also used to have great difficulty going through the simple blood draws to check my immunosuppressant levels, also due to this frustrating experience.
Over time, I have learned to participate in and welcome thoughts of relaxation and peace – choosing to live in the moment, even if that means that I still don’t have all of the answers as I await the results of the lab tests. However, there are still phases where this is not easy. So, I felt the need to write this blog to share with you two things:
1. It actually does not benefit any of us to catastrophize (immediately think of and react to the situation with the ‘worst case scenario’ focus). Part of thinking and feeling ‘doom’ is inevitable perhaps for those of us who struggle with chronic medical conditions with which there is ultimately no cure or absolute resolution to our symptoms.
This means that, as human beings with really any added stress or struggle, we absolutely will react. We react to the circumstances that are put in front of us, and we certainly react to those that are added to an already overwhelming life. It is normal to react… The goal, however, is not to ruminate over those initial thoughts or feelings of uncertainty.
2. We have to allow ourselves to be human and experience fear, but also choose to participate in/toward the positive response in our thoughts, as well as in the actual outcome. We can “choose” by changing that reaction to our response. Instead of, “I have to continue taking care of myself”… I can genuinely think and feel the benefits in my efforts by saying, “I choose to continue taking care of myself.”
To be clear, the healthy option is to acknowledge the benefits of our choices; “I follow-up at the doctor…” or, “I complete my lab work because I value the ability to be proactive for my health, catch things early, and to ultimately know that the status of my health is being successfully maintained.”
At the conclusion of all of this waiting and contemplating, I was actually surprised and relieved to hear the results of my lab work indicating that my blood glucose levels were normal, and that I do not have CFRD. I use the word surprised because I had already cognitively and emotionally been preparing myself for the alternate outcome, and had decided that “this diagnosis would answer a lot of questions related to my unresolved symptoms.”
So, as relieved that I am that this is not something that will be added to my plate (at this time), the question unfortunately still lingers, “What, if anything else, could be causing these symptoms?” As an advocate for my own health, I am working with my medical team to determine the best treatment needs for me. And knowing that I am making an effort to stay on top of my symptoms allows me to adjust and adapt to any new or added diagnosis and treatment information if and when it occurs.
What have been some of your experiences related to contemplating your own symptoms and outcomes? What are your recollections of adjusting to a new diagnosis? How have you learned to cope with your own experience of catastrophizing a situation as it is related to a potentially unwanted outcome?
Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Cystic Fibrosis Pharmacy Patient Advocate
*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment.