It shouldn’t be a surprise that after you receive a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness the recommendation is to get as much information is possible. It’s easy to research an illness in our age of technology. In addition, many of those diagnosed with a particular illness have founded organizations to support those with that diagnosis with the intention of providing information and support.
The idea of getting information and meeting with your doctor is part of the pilgrimage to health and healing. Is information-seeking behavior a Western society cultural phenomenon? I’ve read many accounts about Asian cultures who don’t share the diagnosis of cancer with the patient. It’s a way of protecting the patient from weight of the diagnosis. In this case, the patient isn’t given the choice; it’s hard to fight cultural norms.
One of the things most people want to know about is the prognosis. We’re conditioned to want the know about the outcome before we’ve even started treatment. A prognosis is a number. It’s a guess, an estimation, based on past anecdotal and research metrics. The prognosis for some is a saving grace because the odds are in their favor and a curse for some because the numbers don’t favor their survival.
I watched an interview on Good Morning America with Stuart Scott from ESPN. Scott was diagnosed with cancer. He tried to create as “normal” a life as possible but he was in for a huge surprise. Two years after his first diagnosis and treatment, he was given another cancer diagnosis. He told Robin Roberts that he did something very different after the second diagnosis; he chose not to know the prognosis.
Scott explained that the decision about self-preservation. He didn’t want the prognosis because he didn’t want to be frightened. He’s sharing his belief that knowing the prognosis could possibly bias his body, mind, and spirit connection as he devoted his whole being to health and healing.
We know there are no guarantees that we’ll all live long lives. The prognosis is like playing the odds in Vegas. How would you bet if you saw the odds on the board at the casino based on your prognosis? Do you go for the favorite, or the long shot? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? How does knowing the prognosis impact your motivation, perseverance, and will?
One of the key points that Scott made during his interview was his personal belief that there’s a difference between being alive and living. He believed that knowing the prognosis would impede his desire and ability to live. He didn’t want to simply be alive; he wanted to give his all to his family, his work, and himself. His desire to continue living life to the fullest was as much a part of his treatment as any medication given by the doctors
Do you thrive or dive with too much information? When is too much information a help or hindrance? What would you do differently with your life if you were given the prognosis, good or bad?
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