No bacta tank, many hours of waiting
December 6, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Medical-results-waiting-game Filter: How have you (or a loved one) dealt with waiting for medical tests and for the results? How do you stop yourself from pessimism?

I'm a twenty-something with some sort of breathing issue that's causing more and more pain (think icy burning sensation, all over the lung area.) I'm scheduled to have a CT scan tomorrow to try to sort out what the pulmonologist has decided is "a mystery" and unfortunately, I've already used my considerable talents at googling to discover that every road of "pain while breathing" leads to aggressive cancer medical pages and the saddest web forums (and probably bubonic plague, because googling symptoms is the worst.)

I thought I'd be calmer with dealing with all of this (clear x-ray, after all, no history of smoking, generally healthy) but instead I'm a nervous wreck. I can't stop thinking about it because I'm reminded with every inhale that something is wrong, which is only causing an elevated heart rate and insomnia. I'm upset at myself for putting off getting it looked at while it was still pretty ignorable. Since I can't get a room of puppies to play with until the test results are in, what can I do? What better ways of looking at this are there?

Bonus points: suggestions for how to mitigate pain while breathing (ibuprofen isn't working.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Keep busy! Don't allow yourself time to obsess about it.
posted by Neekee at 7:37 AM on December 6, 2012

Since I can't get a room of puppies to play with until the test results are in

Can you volunteer at a dog shelter for a few hours?
posted by Neekee at 7:39 AM on December 6, 2012

I'm sorry you're going through this. I don't know if this will make you feel better, but you can know that there will be a definite end to the unknown, catastrophizing part, which I think is always the worst. You don't know what you're dealing with so you don't know how to plan for it or prepare yourself.

I can say that whenever I've gotten on WebMD and really gotten into it with that stuff, I've really worked myself up over conditions that have always ended up being either benign or temporary. No one can say for sure that it will be fine because your results have still not come in, but maybe you can take comfort in knowing others have been CONVINCED they had malignant melanoma, etc. and began writing their will only to find out that it was really all very okay.

Anyway, just know that it's finite, the worrying. I read somewhere that even when people receive devastating news, on the unlikely chance that that should happen, the way it normally falls out if that there's a this-is-the-end-of-the-world period and then people shortly return to the happiness levels of where they were before. Life is funny like that. I'm really sorry, though.
posted by mermily at 7:41 AM on December 6, 2012

The Internet is perhaps both the best and worst thing to happen to people interested in their health, mainly because the sickest tend to have the time to post about their issues, which skews self-diagnosis and increases stress. Staying away from the web altogether while getting medical treatment is definitely one thing to consider. At the very least, being distracted by something else will lower your stress levels, and lower stress will affect physiological changes that improve your overall health.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:54 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found when waiting for test results of this kind of nature (OMG SOMETHING HORRIBLE MIGHT BE HAPPENING), I coped the best by addressing the fear head on. So, realizing that if it was something terrible like cancer, at least I knew what was going on and I could start to figure out how to fix it.

I had this anxiety with each of my pregnancies since two ended in miscarriage. The waiting for the other shoe to drop was terrible. Finally, with the last two, I came to the realization that no matter what happened, I would be ok. Would the ensuing period suck? Absolutely, but I would make it through.

You'll get through this - and hopefully there will be wonderfully benign news on the other end (like the time I had chest pain and it turned out to be that I slept one night with an underwire bra on).
posted by Leezie at 8:34 AM on December 6, 2012

I would be doing the same thing (asking the googles and then flipping out), but remember that no one writes stories on the internet that have boring (or good) endings. There aren't a lot of forums talking about how someone went to the doctor and it was a mystery! but it ended up being something not terrible. The odds are in your favor.

Of course you're nervous! It's scary. The good news is that you're on the road to figuring it out. If you have any background in meditation or visualization (even just the relaxation parts) that might be helpful. Otherwise, I'd get out and do something that I would typically enjoy (even if you think there's no way you could have any fun) - the more things you can do that are positive and keep your mind on something else, the better.

No idea about the pain - do you need to soothe the lungs more than stop the pain, or is it more like a muscular pain? I'd ask the doctor about a vaporizor (or pan of hot water vapor) if it's an inside the lung thing?
posted by mrs. taters at 9:00 AM on December 6, 2012

Make a plan for what the eventual outcomes could be. Worst case (major incurable cancer) vs. bad but okay (some infection that could be diagnosed and cured) vs. more unknown (results unclear, more tests needed). Work through questions you will need to ask in ANY case - not just the worst one but okay sure prepare for that too - so that regardless of the outcome you can jump into solving this problem. The only thing you know now is that you have a problem and need a solution, so you need to prepared to push for that and if you're so anxiety ridden now, no matter what happens tomorrow you still will have work to do so best think about it with a (relatively) clear head today. It will keep you busy and focused on problem-solving but not allow you to forget entirely which sounds unlikely.
posted by marylynn at 10:16 AM on December 6, 2012

I don't know if there's a good way to handle this. I've been in and out of hospitals and doctors' offices for the last two weeks trying to figure out what is wrong with my wife. It seems it's metastasized colon cancer. I'm actually typing this while waiting for her to get an endoscopy to rule out stomach cancer.

It's terrifying. Every indication is that she has maybe two or three years to live. I'm deathly scared that I'll be left alone to raise our daughter by myself.

The only thing that helps is to keep busy and be around people who care about me. Yesterday I had my brother come over and help me tear out a concrete walkway in my front yard just to have something else to focus on.

It's hard.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:12 PM on December 6, 2012

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