Thursday, July 18, 2013

On getting bad news

No one likes to get bad news. There are more jokes out there about good news vs. bad news. I am talking about getting bad medical news.

Some people never want to hear the bad news. I have a friend who when she received her breast cancer diagnosis, told her doctors she didn't want to know anything else - staging, tumor size, node involvement, nothing. It was her way of coping. A few years later she did get the details when she was ready for them.

It is my understanding that doctors often get this request - not to tell any bad news. But what is the definition of what is bad vs. what is good? There are more jokes about this as well (but I have chemobrain/RA fog and my brain can't remember them right now).

Its all relative. Take the example of a cancer patient who goes for a chest x-ray which shows a 2 cm tumor. To most people that would be bad news. But if the tumor used to be 4 cm and has shrunk as a result of treatment, 2 cm is good news.

Using the example in the article I referenced, what if the patient needs the bad news to make decisions regarding their treatment. Are they going to blindly follow the suggestions of their medical team? Some people do this anyway but wouldn't it be smarter to be fully informed?

Sometimes my life feels like it is a stream of bad medical news. This is why I have a therapist, well one of the many reasons. I am never the patient who has clear medical tests and they always want to be sure...

Its the coping with the bad news that is the hard part. This is probably why some people say they don't want the bad news. That way they don't have to cope. Ignorance can be bliss.

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