HAWMC 2013 Day 12: “When I was diagnosed I wish I knew….”

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists. Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

Today’s prompt is as follows:

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself (or your loved one) on the day of diagnosis, what would you say?

Getting a diagnosis for me, was bittersweet, on the one hand, I felt relieved – relieved that all the tests and hospital appointments; relief that in fact all the problems were not just “all in my head” as I was told so many times before by a number of doctors. It felt as if a huge weight had suddenly been lifted from my shoulders; all the symptoms that I had been experiencing had finally been validated by the medical community – finally I had proof. Many people hate labels, however labels can be useful – labels can bring people together and give a sense of belonging as well as the knowledge that there is a label and name for what you are experiencing.

On the other hand, however, here I was being told the diagnosis – a long-standing brain stem lesion. A condition, which as the name suggests is life-long; not curable and furthermore was told that there was nothing that could be done in terms of treatment. This, as you can imagine, is disheartening and frightening. The first thought that goes through your head is “Well, that’s my life over!” At that time, the symptoms were bad that they were leaving me unable to work, and if the condition was one in which was life-long then does that mean I’ll never be able to work? The situation I was finding myself in felt hopeless; as if I no longer had anything to look forward to.

So, if I was able to go back in time and talk to myself on the day of diagnosis, I would tell myself as bleak as things look at that moment – it does get better. I will tell myself all the wonderful achievements that I manage to achieve – completing course, starting a blog, asking to write articles for various websites, and even going to help set a group for those with illness and disabilities and becoming secretary of that group.

As I remember, at the time of the diagnosis, because of the severity of the symptoms I was unable to go out. Even now, I am unable to go out unless I was accompanied by another person, however back then the amount I spent outside of the house was very minimal as my parents worked and there was no one around to take me out. Therefore, after being diagnosed I was afraid that my life would involve staring at the same four walls everyday, stuck inside with just the dog for company. If I was able to return to the day of my diagnosis, I would be able to tell that girl sitting there that her life didn’t have to be that way – she could get help from Social Services and with the help of direct payments be able to employ a personal assistant to help her get out into the wider community and be able to do all the things that she wanted to do – be able to choose her own beauty products, shop for herself instead of relying on her parents or internet shopping, as well as going to the cinema or swimming. All of the above which I am now doing and enjoying every minute! Now I feel I do have a purpose and with a little planning am able to do all those things that I had wanted to do but felt was unable.

At the time of the diagnosis I also felt lonely – as if I was the only person going through all of what it was I was experiencing. If I could go back and speak to myself on the day of diagnosis I would surely tell myself that I will eventually find friends; friends both online and offline who although do not have the same diagnosis but nevertheless understands what it is like to live a life with illness. Would also tell my younger self that those feelings of isolation and loneliness would not last forever.

I would tell the sad, lonely girl to stay strong and positive and ensure her that positive things will eventually come into her life.

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