Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - 41


environment by trying to settle yourself down first. Go into the talk only
after you've asked yourself: What are
my needs? How will this affect the
person I'm telling?

Know your audience.

This is particularly important if there
are children you'll need to speak to
about your diagnosis. Different age
groups will have different kinds of
concerns: Preschoolers may worry
you'll go away and won't come back
(so give them a talk that's light on
details of your condition but heavy
on details of how you or a trusted
family member will support them);
school-age kids stress about how
your diagnosis will directly affect
them (have answers to questions
like, "Will we need to move? Will I
have to quit my after-school soccer
league?"); and teens may get thrown
into a bit of existential despair (be
ready to listen and help them talk
through big questions like, "Why
do bad things happen to good
people?"). Pay attention in the days
and weeks after you've shared your
diagnosis for signs your child is withdrawing or acting out. "You need to
be really aware and look for indications they may be struggling with it,"
Kelleher says.

Understand they
may not take
the news well.

It's natural to withdraw in the face
of potentially devastating news.
"People have all sorts of hidden
beliefs about illness," Kelleher says.
You have no idea whether, say,
your diabetes diagnosis triggers
memories of the suffering a cherished aunt may have gone through
with the same condition.

Allow them to react, and reassure
them it's OK with you that they're
upset about the news. Then, when
they're ready to learn more, offer
to set up an appointment with your
primary care physician for the two of
you so your doctor can explain what
your diagnosis really means. "The
reality is, the more support a patient
has, the better the outcome tends to
be," Kelleher says.

Emphasize that
you'll get through
it together.

Make it clear to friends and family that while you're the one who
is dealing with the physical effects
of illness, you understand that
your diagnosis will take a toll on
them, too. Just telling someone
that you're in this together can be
remarkably helpful for the coping process. "It's the difference
between it being a tragedy and
a difficult moment in your life,"
Kelleher says.

Consider outside help.

If you're particularly worried about
sharing the news with your loved
ones, talk to your doctor about
bringing in a family therapist whose
practice focuses on dealing with
medical issues (your physician may
have referrals). A therapist is a great
resource to call upon the moment
you start feeling overwhelmed,
because he or she will understand
the toll that illnesses can take on
both you and your loved ones.
"When you're sick, it doesn't just
affect your body, it affects your
emotions and relationships as
well," Kelleher says. "Struggling
alone can make the journey a lot
more difficult." n

A CHRONIC
CONVERSATION
Sharing difficult news with people
one time is hard enough, but what if
you've been diagnosed with a condition where you must enlist friends,
family members or co-workers in your
care? For example: Someone who
has started to have seizures needs to
have a plan of action to help people
around them know what to do when
symptoms strike.
Develop step-by-step instructions
for your care if you have a medical
event. Clearly denote what should be
done and in what order. (Should 911
be called immediately, or do you need
to be given insulin ASAP?) Distribute
this clear, concise "cheat sheet" to
those closest to you in case of emergency. Keep this document in your
common spaces, too, like near your
desk at work or on the fridge at home.

WEBSITE

Writing It Down,
Getting Support
If you want to help loved ones
better understand your disease,
consider treatmentdiaries.com.
You can post regular updates on
your health and connect with health
professionals and caregivers.

WINTE R 2016

41


http://www.treatmentdiaries.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - 2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - 3
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - University of Virginia - Cover3
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