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Skip Orem (00:00):

Sad news today, you’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Let’s help you put together a battle plan designed to save your life. And this battle plan, it begins the day that you receive that scary life-changing news

The doctor delivers the bad news. The tests have all been done, they’ve all been evaluated. You are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. The call from the doctors ended, or you’re leaving his office after hearing the terrible news. What now? Did the doctor just say what I thought I heard? And then what else did he say after that? I didn’t really hear it. I’m confused. I’m scared. I could die from this. What do I do now? What usually happens you don’t believe what you just heard. Did you just really hear what you thought you heard? You’ll be sort of in shock. You’re going to go through all of the stages of grief and loss, denial, keeping everything to yourself, anger, bargaining, depression, and then finally acceptance. Those stages, they could happen quickly, or they might occur over a couple of days or even weeks

More than likely, you’re just going to need to let them play out. But this is important for your survival, you need to immediately accept at the very least in a tentative way that you in fact do have this disease. Treat it like it’s a fire in your house. There’s no time to wait for these crazy stages, like denial and so

forth to play out. You just need to get your family, your pet, and yourself out of the fire to safety. Everybody, that’s what needs to happen immediately after your diagnosis. Put your battle plan into effect and get moving. Time, time is of the essence. There’s a fire in your house.

Let’s get going. Step one, you need to take control of the situation right now. Of course, you’re in shock, but you need to take control immediately. This is your only priority. Your only job right now, take control of this disease, this disease that, well, it might be trying to kill you. And then step 1A, ask God for help. He’ll be there for you. Don’t leave him out of this. You need God more now than ever. If God has not been in your life or you’re like I was a backsliding Christian, this disease that’s coming to destroy you, it will bring you back to God. You must involve God in this. Pray for his help and guidance. Ask others to pray to him on your behalf. Now, you might have this crazy tendency, because you are going through these grief stages that you might want to isolate yourself, take some time to get your act together.

There’s no time. You don’t have time to isolate. You don’t have time to be alone and get your act together. Remember the analogy, there’s a fire in your house. A disease in your body that it wants to take you out and it’s growing. You need people and you need to act immediately. And you need a partner, someone who loves you and can provide constant help. Usually, that’s a spouse, partner, family member, or very close friend. There needs to be someone you can be totally honest and open with about everything. It’s important that there’s someone that you don’t feel some need to protect from what’s going on, because this person, while they don’t need any medical training at all, they will be the head of your medical team. And my wife was my medical director from the day of the diagnosis forward.

She was going to know everything I knew and more about my medical situation. And it was so sad, but I couldn’t be her protector right now. I was sick. I might die. And so, for her sake, as well as mine, I needed to get well. And she was the best person I knew who could help me be my partner, be my medical director. And it’s important for us older folks to be able to count on our partner to go on the medical appointments with us. Two people listening to what the doctor is saying, two people taking notes, two people asking questions. You need that. Some of this stuff you’ll be going through it’s going to be gross. Forget about being private and embarrassed, this is life and death stuff. And you control freaks out there, it can’t be just in your control. Everything needs to be shared with your partner.

And if you feel that you need to protect your partner from some of this stuff, perhaps your partner needs to be someone else, because there can be no secrets, no hidden information. As far as marriages go, the ‘in sickness and in health’ clause is being invoked. Step three is to get organized, start a notebook, or file, or whatever the digital equivalent might be, medical team, phone numbers, notes, test results, treatment options. They all need to be kept together and in one place easily accessible to both you and your partner. Oh, and that ongoing and constantly expanding list of questions to ask your doctor and your other members of your medical team.

When you come up with a question, write it down right then. Actually, just write everything down. You

probably won’t be yourself mentally, so keep track of your thoughts and questions, write everythin

She was going to know everything I knew and more about my medical situation. And it was so sad, but I couldn’t be her protector right now. I was sick. I might die. And so, for her sake, as well as mine, I needed to get well. And she was the best person I knew who could help me be my partner, be my medical director. And it’s important for us older folks to be able to count on our partner to go on the medical appointments with us. Two people listening to what the doctor is saying, two people taking notes, two people asking questions. You need that. Some of this stuff you’ll be going through it’s going to be gross. Forget about being private and embarrassed, this is life and death stuff. And you control freaks out there, it can’t be just in your control. Everything needs to be shared with your partner.

And if you feel that you need to protect your partner from some of this stuff, perhaps your partner needs to be someone else, because there can be no secrets, no hidden information. As far as marriages go, the ‘in sickness and in health’ clause is being invoked. Step three is to get organized, start a notebook, or file, or whatever the digital equivalent might be, medical team, phone numbers, notes, test results, treatment options. They all need to be kept together and in one place easily accessible to both you and your partner. Oh, and that ongoing and constantly expanding list of questions to ask your doctor and your other members of your medical team.
When you come up with a question, write it down right then. Actually, just write everything down. You

probably won’t be yourself mentally, so keep track of your thoughts and questions, write everythin

down or input it into your device, whatever works for you. And that’s an important point. You will not be yourself mentally, especially during the early parts of this battle. Your partner needs to pick up the slack. Step four, become an expert in your disease and its treatments. Get informed. There’s going to be a natural reaction to Google your disease. I did it immediately after I got off the phone with the doctor. And I can tell you that it is a house of horrors, if you Google your disease and then start randomly reading about it. I did that, big mistake. I was totally depressed. I thought I was a goner after randomly reading stuff on the internet about my prostate cancer. You more than likely won’t be able to stop yourself from going immediately to the internet.

It’s what we do about everything nowadays. My advice then is to try and structure where you go on the internet for information. Try this, the very first time, write down a list of questions that you hope to find answers to on the internet. First item on that list of questions will probably be things you wish you had thought of to ask your doctor. Perhaps you should hold off on some of them and actually ask your doctor the next time you meet with them. And don’t worry, you’ll be in touch with your doctor a lot during this battle. So, start your list of questions and then think about credible sites on the internet, the Cancer Association, the Heart Association. Every disease has a credible association on the internet, so go there first. Then you have all these big time, very important hospitals with websites, just full of information.

I found great information on the Mayo Clinic’s website. And, for me, the Prostate Cancer Foundation was and continues to be an amazing help. Just to make sure that you are consulting only unbiased, trustworthy sources when you do your research. For instance, if it’s cancer, start with the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute. And then this, please, everybody stay out of chat rooms. Well, they can be confidence destroyers, they can bring you down. And you’re going to need all of the confidence and positive attitude that you can muster. An important part of becoming an expert in your disease is to know absolutely everything you can about treatment options. More than likely your partner and you will need to make decisions about treatment options. Most insurance plans, they’ll cover a second opinion. If yours does, use it. Well, even if you totally trust your doctor, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get a second opinion.

It’s another source of information, and especially with regard to treatment options. A second consult with another doctor can be real important. If you’re choosing between say radiation or surgery as a treatment option, talk to the physician in both of those areas, find out as much as you can about the different types of treatments that are going to be available to you. If you have treatment options, well, that’s probably going to be the most important decision you’ll make during your fight against this disease. Oh, one other thing, from personal experience, be careful with statistics. Now, they can really help, but they can also mess with your head. Some people like a lot of statistics, I do, but then the numbers, the stats, they get real complex. So, if numbers start to mess with your head, ask your doctor if they could please use words like most or some in place of the actual numbers. There you have it, everybody.

Your immediate first steps after being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Take control, ask for God’s help, find a partner, your personal medical director, get organized, and become an expert in your disease. Get these steps underway on day one immediately. My other advice would be to try to keep your life, try to keep it as normal as possible. Remember, you are so much more than just someone defined by your disease. You’re still who you were before the diagnosis, so don’t lose who you are. It’s important in getting well that you are able to lower your stress. Take time to enjoy your loved ones, listen to music, exercise in any way that you can, continue to enjoy your life, your family, your friends. Stay just as positive as you can. You really need, during this process to learn to rely on others, even if that’s different for you, you need people now.

Two more things that I want to talk about as it regards, staying healthy and lowering your stress level when fighting a disease. Let’s talk about the financial cost of all of this and the worry about it that can actually negatively affect your ability to get well. So, it’s best, as much as you can, to try to get all of that squared away. There are sources of financial guidance and help out there when you’re diagnosed with a serious disease. Even folks with good insurance, the deductibles alone could bankrupt you if you’re not careful. And it’s going to be a huge help if you just deal with and accept this financial burden of the disease as early in the process as you possibly can. And if you can, leave all that with your partner. It sounds so selfish, but you’re trying to get well for them as well as yourself. Worrying about the financial impact of your disease, it can kill you, because these high levels of stress can affect your immune system. And it’s the activity there in your immune system that’s trying to get rid of these bad cells that have invaded your body.

This financial stuff and worry when you get sick, it’s one of the greatest causes of stress when you’re fighting a disease. And yes, this disease, it might end up having life-changing effects on your financial situation, but heck, you know this disease is going to change your life forever anyway. But here’s the good news, and I promise you this, I’ve experienced it, that change in your life. It’ll be a change for the better. There’s going to be pain, physical, and for sure, mental, but overall again, I’ve experienced it and I promise you this, it’s going to be worth it and you’re going to be a better person when all this ends when you get this disease out of your body.

You’re going to win this battle. I don’t even know you, but I pray for you. I pray for your partner. I pray for your family. And I pray for your medical team. I pray that God will help and guide them as they provide your medical care. God, however you worship him, your relationship with him, it’s going to be key to you becoming healthy again. I hope that you will ask him daily for his help, and protection, and for the comfort of being able to lay down at night as you fight this battle, put your head on the pillow and go to sleep in peace, knowing that God has your back. It’s all part of his plan. He’s known about it since the day you were created. You know he’s got. He’s going to protect you.