When one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it’s not uncommon to experience a period of “groundlessness.” It may feel as if your legs are literally knocked out from underneath you. Quite often, the diagnosis can send you into a state of confusion, shock and even terror. This is a normal response to very upsetting information. Friends In Deed is here to help you through these difficult times, to give you some perspective. Here are 5 principles to remember when you or someone you love is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness:
1) You are not your illness
In the period following a diagnosis, it’s easy to think of yourself and the illness as the same. You are not your illness. You may feel numb, unable to think of anything else, but it’s important to know that you’re the same person you were the day before the diagnosis. The cancer or the HIV or some other illness does not define you. You are a living, breathing person with an illness. After the initial shock and pain of the diagnosis subsides, it’s time to remember the rest of you.
2) You can handle this moment
No matter how challenging our circumstances – even in the midst of a diagnosis of a serious illness — most of us can handle life moment to moment. The anxiety we feel is about the future. It’s the result of all of the negative predictions that flood our mind. Take a deep breath. How do you feel right now? You can handle this moment. The only thing we really have is the present.
3) You can make choices
When you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you may be faced with a range of treatment options. Your doctor may strongly recommend a course of action. You may get second opinions and friends and family members may also weigh in with suggestions. Gather all the information you need, but remember there is nothing you have to do. You’re the only one person who truly knows your body. You have the power to make choices, to say “yes” or “no” to treatments.
4) You can have a life of quality regardless of the circumstances
All of us know people who appear to have been blessed by life. They have it all… and they’re miserable. Every day at Friends In Deed we talk to people who are facing a variety of challenges because of their illness, and so many of them are joyful and alive. Why is that? It’s all about perception. Having a life of quality is not about the circumstances, but how we view them. When faced with illness, many people realize how precious life is and they become determined to enjoy every moment of it.
5) You are not alone
It’s easy to feel frightened, powerless and alone when you’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. That’s why Friends In Deed is here. We’re a crisis center where you can find the emotional and spiritual support to help you through this challenging time. Come to a Big Group and discover that others are going through the same or similar experiences. We provide an open, nonjudgmental space where you can get in touch with your feelings. You’ll begin to see your circumstances from a much broader perspective. We can help you deepen your connection to the world and to yourself, while making you aware of your capacity to contain the seemingly uncontainable. You are not alone.