I always wondered how doctors had the ability to tell patients and families about severe diagnoses or death. How do you tell a patient or their loved ones that their lives are about to change? FOREVER. Just the thought of the conversation makes my stomach turn. I'll tell you one thing though. These conversations should NEVER HAPPEN OVER THE PHONE.
I am sure that my doctor never intended to tell me about my diagnosis over the phone. I was actually more concerned about how startled she was by my test results. So startled that she dropped this huge, ticking MS bomb on my head through a phone call.
This phone call triggered a series of events that I now call "Diagnosis Don'ts." Pay attention folks!
1. DON'T WATCH OVERLY SENTIMENTAL BRIDAL SHOWS
If you're a reality TV junkie, you may want to know something that I learned on the night of the bomb dropping, excuse me, phone call (lol). Sometimes, reality tv hits so close to home that it nearly takes you out in the process! My roommate and I were watching Say Yes to the Dress and on this episode, a feeble woman, using an oxygen tank was wheeled into the bridal boutique. Guess what put her into this vulnerable position. Come on, don't hesitate . It was MS and no, I was not hallucinating. To make matters worse, her daughter, the bride, reminisced about her sister who passed away as a child. I'm not going to ask you to guess again because I'm sure you know where I'm going with this. The sister died from complications of multiple sclerosis. Naturally, I cried until I gave myself a headache. Not only was MS my disease, but it was clearly a relentless stalker. I felt like I just couldn't catch a break.
2. DON'T HOLD BACK YOUR TEARS!
If you don't like to show your emotions, a tough diagnosis will most likely change that. Please, please, please don't make the mistake of trying to keep it all inside. It only makes you cry more. I tried my best to detach myself from the situation. BAD CHOICE. I would sneak into my room to cry and ignore phone calls in an attempt to escape my reality. For the three days before we returned to Dr. Carter's office for the official diagnosis, I just chose not to deal with my feelings. Soon I heard the words, "Your symptoms and test results reveal distinct characteristics of multiple sc..." Before Dr. Carter's lips stopped moving, I had already unleashed a gallon of tears on my sweater, the examination table and my mom's blouse. It hit my dad so hard that he had to step out of the room. I guess he didn't think that something would actually be wrong with his little girl. Here's the crazy thing about trying to be unemotional. 9 times out of 10, your emotions will still come out, only they'll be ten times worse. Forget about appearing vulnerable, forget about your obligations, forget about who's watching. This was a time that I needed to think about my own feelings, spirituality, and healing above anything else.
3. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THOSE STEROIDS!
If you don't like needles, dizziness, getting unsightly belly fat, or feeling uncontrollably hot, brace yourself! To treat inflammation, many doctors prescribe oral or IV steroids to patients. So for exactly five days, methylprednisolone or Solu Medrol, was my new best friend. It was going to be attached to me everywhere I went. Whether I was going to class, lunch or a meeting, it would be in a cute little pouch in my pocket and also running through my veins. Minus the fact that they would have to prick my arm to insert the IV, it seemed pretty simple. Dr. Carter mentioned some side effects that would last for a couple weeks but they didn't sound too bad. I even found an upside to taking steroids. I was finally going to gain some weight! I'm sure that my fellow "skinny minnies" can attest to the fact that we get extremely excited at the idea of possibly gaining a pound or 5 or 10. The doctor told me that I might gain weight but she left out the fact that it would distribute in the ugliest way. My stomach was very bloated and soon after, my face swelled. For the first time in my life, I had chubby cheeks and a pot belly. Far from cute. Trust me. A couple days into the treatment, the clamminess and sweatiness kicked in. I would get so hot and annoyed that I wanted to jump out of my own skin sometimes. I thought that steroids would help my condition and maybe even add a little meat to my tiny frame. It did decrease my inflammation, but it ended up being way more uncomfortable than I expected.
4. DON'T ASSUME THAT YOU CAN JUMP BACK INTO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAM!
If you like to juggle a million different things like I do, STOP. Once I started feeling a bit better, I thought that returning to classes would be a smooth transition. My fatigue, dizziness and numerous home nurse and doctor appointments didn't allow me to have that transition. I had already missed too much class and didn't have the physical or mental energy to catch up in time. I ended up withdrawing from 3 out of my 5 classes due to health reasons. I also had to begin choosing what meeting and programs that I could no longer attend. I still wasn't really up to going out with friends yet and I was always tired and sleepy. I had to accept the fact that this was reality and stop fighting it.
5. DON'T BE AFRAID TO LEAN ON PEOPLE!
If you have an awesome support system, USE IT! Don't be afraid to use the resources around you for support. Whether it's your family, friends, teachers, mentors, etc., find someone that you can depend on to help you through your diagnosis. For a while, I didn't want to speak to my family and friends about what was going on. I would even get annoyed when the subject came up. I'll admit that I was very wrong and a little ungrateful. Every person in our lives was put there for a special reason. When you recognize a good one that cares enough to support you through a tough time, don't reject them. You don't have to be alone and you shouldn't.
UNTIL NEXT TIME!
STAY TUNED AND STAY FEARLESS!