You or someone you love has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. How is this possible? What exactly does "diagnosis" mean? A diagnosis is when a medical condition is identified after going though a process that looks at the presenting signs or symptoms along with looking at the results of tests or procedures that have been performed.
Typically, you see a doctor when there is something going on that is not normal for you, or you are having unusual symptoms. Your physician will take a complete medical history including when your symptoms started. He or she will do a complete physical examination checking for signs of disease. The physician may conduct further testing and or staging of the disease to confirm a diagnosis before recommending the most appropriate treatment.
An acute illness may be serious but can be diagnosed, treated, and you should recover fairly quickly. A chronic illness, even when treated appropriately, will continue long after the diagnosis is made. There are many different types of chronic illnesses, some are very serious and require frequent follow up, monitoring, and treatments. Most, however, require regular follow up and treatments, but allow you to lead a very normal and productive life.
Whether you are the patient or the caregiver of a patient newly diagnosed with a chronic illness you may feel overwhelmed with new responsibilities and may not know where to start. Do not be afraid to ask questions or get a second medical opinion, as you must be empowered to become the primary advocate for yourself or your loved one. Make sure you and your medical provider have discussed all of the available treatment options and be open to considering what you and your family determine may be the best treatment for you. The more you learn about the diagnosis and illness, the more in control you will feel. You will be asked to make decisions relating to treatment such as choosing your physician and where you will be treated. You will have many other important decisions to make such as financial issues, work and family support.
There are many resources available to you such as:
- Local or hospital libraries for books or lists of professional organizations
- Support groups
- Reliable internet websites
- Healthcare professionals
- Advocacy Organizations
As you begin to adjust to the day-to-day management of the illness, you will find that things you once thought were impossible have been accomplished. Over time you will learn to cope with the new challenges of managing your own or your family member's illness. With proper, ongoing support, you will overcome the challenges forced upon you by the illness.
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