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What to do while you’re waiting for medical test results

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By Spixel | Shutterstock
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Waiting to hear news about your health is scary, but here's how to maintain your peace.

I’ve had blood work done several times in the past few months, and the roller coaster that accompanied my “waiting to hear back” time took me by surprise with its intensity. Every time my phone would ring I’d run to grab it from the other room, simultaneously hoping and dreading that I’d see my doctor’s number on the caller ID. Whenever I had a free moment to think, I’d imagine what the results would mean for my future if they turned out one way, and what would happen if they turned out the other way.

At some point after an inconclusive test, as I waited for the results of yet another test, I realized I couldn’t continue to live like this. Agonizing over possible symptoms, or lack of symptoms, spending all of my mental energy worrying (or reassuring myself to prevent worrying) was making me crazy! I knew I had to stop, but I was struggling with what the first step.

Eventually, I discovered a few things that really helped, and here they are: 

Vocalize your fear to someone else

Choose someone you know who loves and supports you, and won’t minimize your fear or immediately make the conversation about him- or herself. You need someone to listen to you and remind you of their love and presence in your life. Ideally this person is someone who can also remind you of God’s love and continuous care.

Just saying out loud the things you’ve been mulling over and over in your mind helps bring some clarity to the situation. It makes your fears and concerns real, while simultaneously reminding you that regardless of what happens, someone else knows and wants to help you.

Be realistic about the worst case scenario of what could happen to you

A mentor once told me to write down a fear I was struggling with, and to take it to its worst case conclusion. I recommend you do the same. Get out a piece of paper, or a blank document on your computer, and write down the most devastating outcome you can imagine.

Is it a prolonged hospital stay and years of rehab? Is it never being able to see again? Is it a future of chemo and radiation and then dying earlier than you hoped? Is it a future without biological children because of a surgery you might need? Whatever it is, write it out. And then (here’s the harder part), look at that worst case outcome, and find the good that would result from it.

Would your hospital stay and rehab help you become a more patient person? Would it at least get you out of the job you’re stuck in? Will the experience force you to live more intentionally? Will you be able to grow closer to your loved ones because of this? If you will probably live through this, what abilities and people will you still have in your life? If you don’t live through this, what do you want to do that is meaningful before you go? When you acknowledge what the worst case scenario could be, and then realize that good things are still possible, you feel oddly free. It has helped me many times. And while it takes practice to see the positives in the situation, it’s definitely worth it.

Plan out your free time to help take your mind off the waiting

Plan things you enjoy! Set up dates with friends in the evenings after work, or plan some movies to watch and new recipes to cook for dinner. Get out of your house on the weekends. Go on a day trip with someone, get a massage, go window shopping at a mall. Whatever fun money you have in your budget, prioritize it for this time of waiting. The more you can do with friends and family, the better!

Waiting to hear back about test results is scary, but if you make a decision to take the energy you’re putting into worrying and take to heart the suggestions above, you’ll find it can make a big difference. 

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