Can bad medical news be more fatal than the disease itself?
If you or someone you love gets a bad medical diagnosis – especially one with a poor prognosis – you’re at much higher risk for suicide and cardiovascular death in the next week following diagnosis. And that higher risk can last for an entire year.
That’s the bad news. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lower that risk. So please read on to get the whole story.
Most studies about suicide risk play up the role of untreated psychiatric problems. At least that’s what the psychiatrists want you to believe.
But suicide isn’t always the result of full-blown depression. It can also emerge with overwhelming social distress or with shocking medical news, such as a new diagnosis of serious medical illness.
So says a large 15-year observational study of more than six million Swedes, which controlled for genuine mental illness.1
Approximately 530,000 people received a diagnosis of cancer during the course of the study. Those diagnoses were linked to an increased risk for both suicide and cardiovascular death:
First week suicide multiplied 12.6 times
First year suicide post-diagnosis 3.1 times
First week cardiovascular death 5.6 times
First month cardiovascular death 3.3 times
While the conclusion of the study was that mental health services should be made available to cancer patients – especially newly diagnosed ones – it seems logical to draw a few other conclusions that can be put to use by patients, friends, relatives, and caregivers.
A HUGE risk: misdiagnosis
Emotional distress is a risk factor for cardiac events. And both social and emotional distress are risk factors for suicide.
Hopelessness, depression, anxiety and panic can all play a role.
But the first thing anyone receiving a bad diagnosis should do, in my opinion, is to get a second and even a third opinion… especially given the astounding frequency of cancer misdiagnoses (which we’ve discussed here before). The same holds for people diagnosed with other serious medical conditions. Don’t take the first word for the last word.
And whether it’s the first diagnosis or the third, it’s time to hit the pause button and try to calm your panic – whatever way works best for you, whether through prayer, exercise, the support of other people, or whatever.
It’s not easy. But it’s very important.
Consider ALL your treatment options
You have far more healing options than you’ll ever hear about from most doctors. Remember, they risk their license if they venture too far off the beaten path of conventional treatments (and they probably aren’t inclined to do that anyway).
So you’ll have to do your own homework and explore the options most likely to give you hopeful results. Whether that means going to Germany or Mexico, or finding alternatives here in the U.S.
In the eleven years I’ve been writing and publishing about cancer, I’ve come across many, many people – including those with very advanced cancer –who made complete recoveries and lived for years.
It happens all the time. Most people don’t hear about these unconventional cures, or they refuse to take it on board because in their world it “can’t” be true.
Consider the integrative strategies of Dr. Lee Cowden. He is a board-certified cardiologist, clinical nutritionist and internist, and skilled in homeopathy – one of those alternative approaches that most MD’s spit at. For more than 20 years, he’s been treating cardiac disease and other chronic diseases, primarily with alternative and integrative methods.
In March of 2012, Cowden received the prestigious Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM) Humanitarian Award for continually meeting people at their point of need and giving them hope.
At one point of his career, almost every new patient he got had been given a death sentence by traditional medical practitioners.
One patient came to him, having received one kidney transplant that his body was rejecting. He was on the verge of dialysis. In just one month’s time – with dietary changes, nutritional supplements, some emotional work and electromagnetic therapies – this young man went on to achieve perfectly normal kidney function.
Please note that you’ll have to look beyond the obvious to find these therapies. They may be hidden in plain sight, or hidden out of sight. Either way, do yourself a favor and dig them up.
Heal your emotional pain
Healing your emotional pain is as important before a disease diagnosis as it is afterwards… because there’s compelling evidence that emotional pain can lead to physical disease.
If you find yourself unable to cope with a cancer diagnosis, then therapy or a support group are good ideas. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, get yourself to a medical professional at once. Your regular doctor can refer you to an appropriate therapist if you don’t know one.
As for “home treatments,” when you find yourself angry, negative, and hopeless, here are some techniques that can aid you to restore your balance, peace and wellbeing – complements of Dr. Deepak Chopra.
1. Resist the impulse to ignore your feelings, push them away, or judge them as bad. Ask instead what they’re trying to tell you. All emotions – even the negative ones – should help you and enable you to tune into messages your body wants you to hear.
2. Tell yourself positive things. If you keep spouting negativity in your mind, saying, “I’m angry, miserable, stressed out…” you’ll have an extremely difficult time detaching and letting go of those negative emotions. Learn to see your emotions as energy that flows through you, but isn’t about you.
3. Practice compassion for yourself. Tell yourself, “Whatever fear says, nothing can destroy me. I’m reacting strongly right now, but this too shall pass.”
4. Meditate. This is one of the best ways to loosen the grip of sticky emotions and connect with your true self.
5. Read positive books, your Bible, or pray. It’s very easy to lie to yourself. But reading positive things and praying can help release those negative emotions.
A German doctor, Geerd Hamer, is probably the most famous advocate of dealing with the emotional side of cancer. His approach is called New German Medicine. He believes ALL cancer happens because of a profoundly traumatic emotional event in the patient’s life – a death in the family, divorce, loss of a job – and it’s essential to face this sorrow and learn to live with it.
I don’t agree with the idea that emotional distress is the sole cause of cancer, but I do believe it plays a big role, and most alternative and integrative cancer doctors address emotional healing as part of their protocol.
Train yourself to be happier one day
(and thought) at a time
Happiness happens by choice, not by chance. So what are some of the choices that form a foundation for happiness?
First of all, build a strong foundation for happiness by nourishing yourself with healthy, nutritious food, getting regular physical activity, and getting enough sleep. Neglecting any of these is a recipe for sadness and depression.
1. Foster connections with people. Happy people feel connected at work, at home, and in the community. Find something you can contribute to that’s bigger than yourself. Volunteer. Have lunch with a friend. Plan a neighborhood activity.
2. Look for the positive. Your neural pathways strengthen when you use them. As you focus on the positive, it’ll be increasingly easier to focus on more positives.
3. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak with your own true voice so you don’t back yourself into corners you can’t escape from.
4. Schedule some fun time. Children laugh and play all day. As an adult, insert bursts of play into your day. Do things that make you feel playful and leave you smiling.
5. Express gratitude. Acknowledge the good and positive things in your life, your community, or the world. Like attracts like, so as you express thanks you’ll attract more things to be thankful for. Every night I thank God for the good things that happened that day and the last couple of days. I always find there are a great many of them – even on a “bad” day.
Taking these steps even in the face of bad medical news can help your healing process. And help make sure you don’t fall prey to cardiovascular events or suicide in the shorter term.