A terminal illness diagnosis can be devastating, but it doesn’t mean the end of life as you know it. Yes, your life will change dramatically and irrevocably. But if you’re lucky, and prepared ahead of time, there are lots of ways to cope — physically and emotionally — with a terminal illness diagnosis that don’t involve hiding in bed or simply “accepting” what’s going to happen next. Here are some tips:
Accept that you're still in control
There are also things you can do that will help you cope with your diagnosis.
Take control of your life. It’s tempting to think that someone else should be making decisions for you. But in reality, no one knows what’s best for your health except you. Even the most experienced doctor may be wrong about certain things.
Doctors have good intentions but they’re not infallible (they’re human too). So ultimately it’s up to each patient whether they want something done or not done. And if so, then exactly how much effort should you make towards achieving those goals? Just because your disease is incurable, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of options.
Break the news to your loved ones
One of the hardest parts of having a terminal illness is feeling the need to keep it from others. You may feel like your life is over, and if you tell people that it will be, too. But that’s not true. After all, you still have your family and friends who care about you very much.
You should talk with them about how they can help during this difficult time. It’s best if you are open about the situation and give them a chance to say “I’m here for you”. Let them know how much support means to you by giving them some specific examples. This way they’ll know exactly what kind of support works best. Overall, breaking the news to your loved ones can be one of the hardest but most beneficial things you can do as a terminally ill patient.
Make a last bucket list
When you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s natural to wonder what your remaining time will look like and whether or not you’ll be able to complete all the things on your bucket list. For anyone who has given this matter serious thought, it’s worth noting that many people don’t have a bucket list at all. Some don’t feel they have enough time left or don’t want to make plans because they think their situation might change. Others may fear disappointing themselves if they can’t do everything on their list before their death. If this sounds familiar, take heart: You still have plenty of options for making the most out of each day!
One way to start is by identifying what’s truly important for you and prioritizing those items over items that could just be fun but won’t really satisfy deep desires. This can help ensure that every activity in which you engage is fulfilling and meaningful—not just “something fun.” You might even find yourself creating opportunities for fulfillment without realizing they exist!
Don't take it out on your loved ones
In the midst of all this, it’s important to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Don’t take out your frustrations on them. Don’t blame yourself or others. And don’t blame God, the doctors or the healthcare system for misdiagnosing you. You’ll just make things worse for everyone involved if there’s any chance that a cure exists but has yet to be found.
Get support from a psychotherapist
Psychotherapy is a process in which you and a psychotherapist work together to identify your needs, find ways of meeting those needs, and change any behaviors that are not helpful. A good therapist will be able to help you deal with the emotional side of this diagnosis and all the other issues it brings up for you.
A good psychotherapist can also help you cope with the stress and grief surrounding a terminal illness diagnosis. And even though talking about dying may seem scary at first, many people find that having someone who listens well helps them deal with their fears about what lies ahead.
Turn to spirituality or religion if it helps
If you’re struggling to deal with the uncertainty of a terminal illness, turn to religion, philosophy or spirituality. These disciplines can help you cope with your feelings of fear and sadness as well as the potential pain of death. They can also help you find meaning in life despite these challenges.
If religious beliefs are important to you and have helped you cope in other situations, they may be helpful now too. If they haven’t been helpful before, seek out others who share your beliefs so that they can support and encourage you during this difficult time.
Consider hospice care sooner rather than later
If you think hospice care is right for you, consider it a few months before your health worsens. Hospice care can be a great option for those who aren’t ready to face death at home but don’t want to go through the stress of traveling back and forth to the hospital or even the emergency room.
It’s also beneficial if someone has trouble getting around and feels uncomfortable being in unfamiliar surroundings or being around strangers. Hospice services are usually provided by nurses and other healthcare professionals who will be able to assist with daily tasks such as personal hygiene, making meals, keeping track of medications, setting up equipment like oxygen tanks and wheelchairs, and looking after other needs you might have (e.g., help with laundry).
Get all the facts but don’t overdo it
If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, learn all that you can about the condition and its symptoms. This will help you make informed decisions about treatment options and understand the next steps in your care. Consider getting emotional support from a mental health professional if you are experiencing depression or grief over the loss of your health. Make sure to participate in physical therapy as needed; this can help lessen symptoms and improve quality of life for years after a diagnosis is made.
Take advantage of pain-management techniques
Pain management is a very real concern for those with terminal illnesses. However, medication isn’t the only way to deal with pain. For example, acupuncture has been used as an alternative to morphine in China since the sixth century and has become increasingly popular in Western countries over the past few decades. It’s also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression among people living with chronic pain (and who doesn’t want a few less of those?).
Other techniques that don’t rely on drugs include:
- Physical therapy
Find caregivers sensitive to your emotional needs
If you’re facing a terminal illness, finding the right doctor is one of the most important things you can do to get better. Doctors who are sensitive to what you are going through will be more likely to listen and help. They’ll also be able to work with you to find the best treatment options and care plan for your specific situation.
If possible, try to choose a specialist who has experience treating patients in similar situations as yours. Ask friends and family members for referrals or search for doctors with specialties like palliative care or hospice services online.
Spiritual comfort & physical therapy
When you first receive a terminal illness diagnosis, it’s natural to feel a range of emotions. You might be told that there is “nothing more we can do,” or your doctor may suggest that you explore additional treatment options out of state. While accepting the reality of your condition is an essential part of coping with a terminal illness diagnosis, it’s important to remember that there are many ways in which you can help yourself along the way. For example:
- Spiritual comfort: If religion helps you cope with life in general or if it helps guide you through difficult times like this one, seek out spiritual guidance and support from others who share your beliefs.
- Physical therapy: Working on keeping yourself physically fit will help keep symptoms at bay and bring some relief from pain if nothing else can be done medically for now.
While accepting your prognosis isn’t easy, know that there are many ways beyond simple acceptance for dealing with a terminal illness diagnosis. This includes seeking out spiritual comfort or physical therapy depending on how those areas relate most closely to what matters most about living well going forward!
A terminal illness diagnosis can be a life-changing event. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your life. If you act now, you can continue to live in a way that will make you happy and give others around you peace of mind.
One of the best ways of coping with such a diagnosis is achieving a feeling of control of the remainder of your life. And Myend’s end-of-life services aim to offer you this exact control. Sign up today for a free account and see for yourself.