Jessie Gruman survived three different cancer diagnoses before the age of 51—the latest case was colon cancer, which was detected after a routine colonoscopy. Dr. Oz talks with Jessie about combining her skills as a social psychologist and her experience with illness in her new book AfterShock: What to Do When the Doctor Gives You—Or Someone You Love—a Devastating Diagnosis.
After being diagnosed with cancer for the third time, Jessie says she was devastated. "I was so incredibly upset at this news," she says. "All of my expertise and experience couldn't protect me from the gale force of emotion, from the sadness, from the loss of my plans, from the fear of my pain." Once the dust cleared and she had an operation and received treatment for the disease, Jessie says she decided to write a book to help others cope with devastating news from the doctor. "I thought it might help people guide their way through these few days and weeks just after a bad diagnosis," she says.
Here are the four important things that Jessie says you should remember when you or someone you love gets bad news from the doctor:
You won't always feel like this. Jessie says the first 48 hours after receiving bad news about your health are very difficult. "When you first get bad news, your world seems to fall apart," she says. "As you gain more information, you will start to be able to put back together a plan for your future."
You have some time. Jessie says wanting to resolve things quickly and seek treatment immediately is normal, but you need to weigh your options. "Oftentimes that urgency keeps people from getting a second opinion, from finding out really what their treatment options are," she says.
You don't have to tell everybody. Sharing your bad news with just one or two people at first is okay, Jessie says—it may even be healthy. "Particularly at this early point, telling people can be an incredible burden, because you reexperience this sadness and grief you are feeling about your future," she says.
Hope is a gift. Jessie says you don't have to act incredibly hopeful and put on a happy face around others after you get bad news. "The notion that is really common in the United States is that we have to keep a stiff upper lip at all times and maintain our hope," Jessie says. "That puts a tremendous burden on those of us who are patients and really isolates us."