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Waiting for a Medical Diagnosis

How to Handle the Wait for Results on Medical Testing

Many years ago, I worked for an early intervention and advocacy agency that specialized in assisting HIV/AIDS patients in diagnosing, treating and living with HIV or AIDS. One of the things our agency advocated was early intervention and testing, particularly for high-risk patients, because the quality of life and treatment was drastically improved with early detection.

I still remember taking my first HIV test when I worked there, because employees had to be tested regularly. While I was not in a high-risk category and I didn’t participate in risky behavior, there was still a moment of pause to reflect upon, “What if the results come back positive?” We had to wait three days to get the results. Those were a long three days. Fortunately, as expect, my results were negative.

A couple of years prior to that, an employee at a company where I worked tested positive for tuberculosis, and the entire staff had to be tested for it too. Having worked quite closely with this man when he was coughing before he was diagnosed, I was very nervous about the results of that TB test. Again, another three-day wait for results, but at least on that one, I could see the spot on my arm where the test was performed and knew I was negative before they ever read the results.

Last week, I went to the doctor for a particularly odd-looking rash that had developed on one of my breasts. I had ignored it, mostly, putting on cream and Benadryl for the itch, but the rash persisted and actually spread. When a new spot developed on the top part of my breast, I knew (with some coaxing from family) that it was time to go to the doctor.

The physician’s assistant inspected my breasts, palpated them, then palpated the axillary region (the area under the arms and down my sides). She prescribed a cream for the rash, stating that if it was what she hoped it was, the rash would begin to clear up in a day or two. However, because of the tenderness and swelling of the lymph glands in the axillary region, she also referred me for ultrasonography of my breasts and axillary region. Why? To rule out or confirm a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer.

I wasn’t nervous then. I wasn’t scared then. I wasn’t even stunned. In fact, I almost had expected the testing.

But when we couldn’t get an appointment until a week later, I went home, waited, and began to do things I’m going to advise you not to do while waiting for a medical diagnose.

Don’t Read Conditions on the Internet While Waiting for a Medial Diagnosis

The worst thing I did while waiting for the testing and diagnosis was to start searching the internet for the symptoms, treatment, and problems associated with the condition for which I was being tested. Every page said virtually the same thing, and very little of it was positive or encouraging. In fact, it really only served to scare me and make the waiting harder.

Don’t be Alone While Waiting for a Medical Diagnosis

If you live alone, maybe you should visit friends and family while waiting for a medical diagnosis. I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far through the wait if not for my family and loved ones. Take a trip if you can. Go out with friends for dinner. Do something, anything with people so you’re not sitting alone doing nothing but thinking about waiting for the diagnosis.

Keep Busy While Waiting for a Medical Diagnosis

If the medical condition you’re being tested for makes you feel lousy, like mine does, keeping busy will help you feel better, or at least take your mind off feeling lousy. If you can work, do so. If you can’t work, catch up on reading, or housekeeping, or even play video games. I wrote an article awhile back about how video games can help with pain management, and I think they can help with the frustration and fear and worry of waiting for a medical diagnosis too.

Tell People You’re Waiting for a Medical Diagnosis

There’s no reason to keep your wait for a medical diagnosis a secret. People are, by nature, kind and generous individuals and if you let them support you, they usually will. Hugs, virtual or in person, kind words, positive energy and prayers can give you strength and support, and who knows–maybe a miracle and your test results will come back better than you could have imagined.

Talk about Your Feelings While Waiting for a Medical Diagnosis

Holding your feelings inside will simply cause you to build up to an explosion of emotion. It’s better to discuss your feelings with someone, like friends or family or to call a trained mental health professional, so you can discuss your feelings. Sometimes, just having someone safe to talk to or blow off steam can make a huge difference while waiting for a medical diagnosis. Who knows, someone might just say the right thing to alleviate your fears or at least get your mind off the wait for the diagnosis.

Not only do I have to wait for the test, which isn’t scheduled until Tuesday, but I also have to wait for the results of the test as well. In the meantime, I’m keeping busy, talking to friends and family, and trying not to research anything more about the condition for which I’m waiting for a medical diagnosis.

If things go well for you, the diagnosis will be something simply and easily curable, and your life will resume with full quality. If the diagnosis is not positive, then you can be proactive and begin taking the steps to make your life better and as healthy and fulfilling as it can be while you work through your condition.

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