How to leave the oncologist’s office feeling determined instead of hopeless

When we are dealing with disease, whether our own or someone we love, somewhere along the line we give away our power over how we think and feel.

Are your husband’s doctor’s appointments preceded by days of feeling a combination of emotions from anxiety to dread to hopefulness? Do you often feel powerless and are both fearful and hopeful for whatever you might be told?  

The first appointment my husband had after we learned his cancer had metastasized I remember feeling anxiety and dread days beforehand. The appointment was not great as my husband’s oncologist had no answers for us. He could only cite the textbook solution which was chemotherapy, but did not recommend it since it had proven ineffective the first time around. He sent us on our way, recommending that we schedule another appointment with a specialist.

We both left the office feeling a bit numb. I had wanted the doctor to give us something – some sort of plan.  I can’t imagine how my husband was feeling. It was summertime and we wandered downtown with our daughter for a little while in a bit of a daze.  We ran into one of our daughter’s school friends and when mentioning we had just come from the doctor’s office, I burst into uncontrollable tears. This complete stranger gave me a needed hug right outside the town library.  

What I didn’t realize then was that I was giving the doctor all the power over how I felt.  The problem is, it is not her job to make me feel better.  Her job is to diagnose and recommend treatment options. As you can see, when I’m wanting the doctor to give me reassurance and her job is to recommend options, the two don’t line up.  Which didn’t work out well for my emotions.

When we are dealing with disease, whether our own or someone we love, somewhere along the line we give away our power over how we think and feel.  We give it to the doctor, to the disease, to the treatment… We let these external things decide how we are going to feel. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way.  

No person or thing or circumstance or situation can tell us how to feel.  WE decide how we feel. No really. Our feelings are always the result of our thoughts, and we get to choose our thoughts.  

I’m going to teach you 5 steps to take back control of your emotions before you attend a doctor’s appointment with your husband.

First – Separate Out The Facts

It’s easy to get very doom and gloom when dealing with a serious disease.  The thing is, it is rarely an emergency so it’s important to remember what the facts are compared with how you may be feeling about them at the time.  A doctor’s appointment is just that, an appointment where a human being who has training in a field that is complex and changing will provide you and your husband with information and often an opinion or recommendation.  You get to decide what you make that information or recommendation mean.  

Second – Become Aware of Your Thoughts

Now, more than likely prior to a visit to the oncologist, you will have many emotions.  For me I often felt hope, dread, anxiety, and anticipation. You may not always realize it, but all of these emotions are caused first by your thoughts about the upcoming appointment. Often you may have conflicting thoughts.  You want to get all those thoughts out of your head so you can become aware them. The best way to do this is by taking a piece of paper and writing down everything in your head about that appointment. Don’t judge yourself or censor yourself, you are just getting all these negative thoughts out so you can see them for what they are – just thoughts.  

Third – Understand That Your Thoughts Cause Your Emotions

When your husband has cancer, it can be extremely difficult mentally and emotionally. You are likely going to have a lot of negative thoughts. That’s OK.  You first just want to be aware of what is going on in your head because those thoughts are causing the emotions you feel. If your are thinking, “I’m worried the doctor is going to tell us bad news,” then that thought is likely going to make you feel anxious. You probably don’t take the best actions when you are feeling anxious. Negative thoughts cause negative emotions, and when we feel bad, we don’t make the best choices or act in our most effective way.

Fourth – Decide Ahead of Time What You Want to Think – Something That Will Empower You

That day of crying in a stranger’s arms I had not decided ahead of time how I wanted to think about the appointment and what the doctor might say.  Instead my mind chose to hope the doctor would give us good news and a plan for going forward. By not deciding ahead of time about how I was going to approach this appointment, I gave all my power away.  

How can you decide ahead of time what to think if you don’t know what the doctor is going to say?  Good question. You decide what to think based on only what is in your control. What if I had decided ahead of time that no matter what the doctor says, I’m committed to doing everything I can to help my husband find answers. I would have had a whole different experience. That thought is something I can control and more over, when I think it I feel determined.  Determination is a much better feeling than hopeful.

Fifth – Practice That Thought!

You need to practice the thoughts that will serve you.  Your brain will want to go back to all your doom and gloom thoughts if you don’t actively practice what you want to think instead.  Write it down. Put it on your phone. Use it when you talk to others. Begin to incorporate that thought into your life with your husband’s cancer.  

The next appointment your husband has try these 5 steps ahead of time and you are for sure going to have a different experience, no matter what the doctor has to say.

I would love to hear your comments!  Let me know if this helps prepare you for your husband’s next appointment.

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