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Receiving a medical diagnosis can be a difficult event for patients and their loved ones. On one hand, the new diagnosis can be downright shocking and increase the anxiety level of all those involved. On the other hand, it may be relieving to finally have a name to go with the symptoms you have been experiencing. Receiving a medical diagnosis, no matter what it is, has an impact on people. While some illnesses can be easily managed, others are more challenging and can even alter your usual way of life. Some medical illnesses even have symptoms that mimic those of various mental illnesses.

Below are some helpful tips to follow when living with a medical diagnosis:

1) Learn about the diagnosis

Read educational material from reputable websites to give you a better understanding about your diagnosis. Studies show that knowledge helps reduce stress. The unknown is usually scarier than what is known. One example of an in-depth website that has a vast amount of information on various medical diagnoses is The National Institutes of Health: Another less in-depth site is Many general or specific diseases have their own website(s) full of information and resources. For example, The American Cancer Society: or Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

2) Ask questions

Ask your doctor questions! Most doctors enjoy educating interested patients.  It is best to make a list of questions before your appointment so you won’t forget what you would like to ask when you see your doctor. Make your questions concise and direct. Doctors may have trouble delivering bad news, but if you want to know both the best-case and worst-case scenarios, let the doctor know. Remember, it is okay to get a second opinion.

3) Learn how to best help yourself

Your compliance with your doctor’s medical advice can make a huge difference in the outcome of many diseases, such as diabetes. Because of this, you may have more control over your outcome than you realize. It is good to ask questions so that you remain informed about your diagnosis and prognosis. Oftentimes, classes are available to help you learn how to best help yourself.

4) Turn to God in prayer

Pray! Studies show that those who pray have better overall outcomes. Don’t be afraid to ask your priest for the Anointing of the Sick, that wonderful and often forgotten sacrament. No longer is it reserved only for those on their deathbeds. Ask the saints to pray and intercede for you. After all, they became saints through the miracles attributed to them.

5) In all things, give thanks

If the disease is life limiting or compliance is tough, make a gratitude list of all the things you can still do and enjoy. Research shows that those who remain grateful during the difficult times have better outcomes.

6) Get in touch with your funny bone

It’s important to incorporate some humor in your life. Studies have shown that watching funny movies, reading joke books, and general laughter helps you better navigate the physical and emotional effects of various medical disorders. So do what you can to keep having some good laughs.

7) Build your support system

Many support groups and classes exist and are usually free and quite helpful. Some are online and some are in person, giving you more flexibility and access. Many are often held at churches or medical facilities. While many groups are for the patients experiencing the disease, some groups exist to help the families navigate the stresses, emotions, and difficulties of having a family member living with a medical diagnosis. (If you’re the primary caregiver of a person with a medical diagnosis, you will enjoy reading “Blessed are the Caregivers”). “Seek and ye shall find”. Make a list of people you can call on when family is not available. Check if your church has a ministry or list of people willing to help with transportation, prayer, and other activities.

If you are in the hospital, seek out the hospital social workers. They are usually very knowledgeable about resources to help you and your family cope with a new diagnosis.

Seek out a professional counselor if you would like to talk to a neutral, yet compassionate helper in the community.

8) Practice self-care

As a family member or friend of someone who has recently received a medical diagnosis, your support can be critically important, both physically and emotionally. But remember, you may need to set healthy boundaries that allow you to also take care of yourself. You need some time for yourself, to rest, play, and reflect. As flight attendants always say: When the oxygen masks drop in an airplane, you are instructed to put your mask on FIRST and then take care of the person who needs help with theirs.

9) Accept palliative care

Palliative means “relief of suffering”. Nowadays there are palliative care physicians for people with chronic illnesses. It is an important specialty in many hospitals and communities. They help people live the fullest life they can with their chronic illness. Be sure to utilize their services if your situation calls for it.

10) Utilize hospice care

When a doctor’s best guess is a prognosis of 6 months or less (only God knows for sure) for a terminal diagnosis, he or she can refer the patient to hospice care. Hospice provides comfort or palliative care rather than curative care. Most insurance plans pay for hospice care, and some hospice companies provide charity care to the uninsured. Hospice care consists of visits by an RN as needed, visits by an aide 2 or 3 times per week, visits by a master’s level social worker for patient/family counseling, chaplain visits and any needed durable medical equipment, such as a hospital bed.

Receiving a new medical diagnosis is a challenging experience. Taking action by putting these steps into practice can help restore a sense of agency in your life and can provide much needed comfort and reassurance. When we care for our physical health, we glorify God. We can glorify God by asking for help when we need it and by giving thanks for the support He provides.

Recommended Reading:

When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith and Funny People by Jeannie Gaffigan: In this heartfelt and humorous memoir, Jeannie–a Catholic, wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan, and mother of five–shares how she and her family navigated the medical crisis of being diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. She stresses the importance of faith, family, and humor, as keys to recovery and living a fulfilling life in the face of adversity.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God  with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:   19-20)