When facing medical challenges, I’ve discovered there are two types of people: 1. Those who want to read everything they can get their hands on, who do extensive research on the internet, and who feel they have a good grasp on the challenges ahead; 2. Those who want little-to-no information and prefer to be told what to do and when – no questions asked.
I align with the first group – give me the information straight up. Plus, I’ll read and research everything. The difficulty with this approach is one can easily get scared to death. Too much information – especially from websites that aren’t reputable or from friends or family who have terrifying anecdotal accounts irrelevant to the situation – can send me in the wrong direction and leave me stressed.
Searching for medical information online can also lead to “cyberchondria,” the new internet-age term for health anxiety or hypochondriasis. When there’s so much medical information readily available, excessive online searches can add unnecessary worry. Searching the internet should be done in moderation and only on websites that are clinically sound such as the American Cancer Society (cancer.org), the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (mskcc.org), Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org), or MD Anderson Cancer Center (mdanderson.org), to name a few.
I suppose there’s something to be said for having too little information…just do what you’re told. No need to worry or deliberate over difficult decisions because someone else is calling all the shots. But too little information can also present difficulties. Not having even minimal information can leave one unprepared for side effects or employing self-care measures to ensure the best outcome.
I’ve learned that within nearly every family, there is someone who wants all the information and someone who wants no information, often resulting in disagreements and needless added tension. Finding my way through this can be challenging but manageable. Acknowledging which type of coping strategy works for me is the first step. Second, telling not only my family but also my medical team what I need in terms of information allows them to understand what works best for me. Third, recognizing that another family member – whether the one receiving care or the caregiver – will have different needs than I do. And I can be okay with that especially if we can each express our views and needs.
The “too much or too little” conundrum isn’t limited to medical issues. I’m confronted with the same challenges in many other areas: news consumption, food, solitude, etc. Too much news leaves me feeling sad and helpless; too little, uninformed and out of touch. Too much food leaves me feeling bloated and overweight; too little, anorexic. Too much solitude leaves me feeling isolated and lonely; too little, unsettled and peopled-out.
Finding my way means knowing which way of functioning works best, recognizing the pros and cons of too much and too little – how each one makes me feel – and seeking the balance between the two.
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SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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