Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

People living with terminal illness diagnosis should struggle with death

We basically know what a disease is and how it appears. First a patient feels symptoms that make him or her visit a doctor; then a doctor prescribes some treatment that will hopefully wipe the disease out. If recovery is not as soon as we expect then we usually treat a disease as a disaster. But imagine how patients feel when they are perfectly aware of the fact that their disease or its symptoms will not disappear soon or even become chronic and lethal.

Chronic diseases can be less or more dangerous, better or worse studied. Some chronic diseases are stigmatized which means that lots of scary myths are circulating about them in the society, such as cancer and HIV infection. If some diagnose turns out to be scary and unexpected for a patient he will certainly react upon it the same way majority of other people in the society traditionally do.

In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first described five stages through which dying patients go in her book On Death and Dying. These five stages are universally known today. They are all filled with grief but not in connecting with coming death but because of changes that are taking place in a person’s habitual life because of his disease. When diseased a person has to visit doctors, take medicines, constantly feels scared with the probability of new serious complications, experience problems in communicating with relatives and problems with work. It always takes quite a long period of time for patients to get adapted to their serious diseases that can be cured not very soon or never. But one thing is for sure that people must get adapted to living with their diseases and keep on living. Experts say there are five steps for smooth adaptation.

Step one. Negation

It is quite natural that a patient gets terribly shocked when he or she receives information about a serious or lethal disease. Then a person goes through the stage of negation refusing to believe the sad truth, assuming that it was just a mistake. A person prefers to think that probably doctors messed up test results, and that the terrible information concerns someone else. Others are inclined to ascribe the serious symptoms to overstrain that may hopefully vanish after having good rest or taking vitamins. At that, it is important to know that being calm during the negation stage is mere illusion as this is a period of continuous stress for a patient. So, the most important thing for a patient during this stage is to learn how to relieve from chronic stress and try to get much information. Also, a person should also master relaxation methods like yoga or simple breathing exercises.

Second, it seems to be the hardest thing but a patient must try to learn as much as possible about the diagnosis. People usually have rather vague and terrible ideas as concerning a new diagnosis they learn. They will negate it until have a better and more exact notion of it. It is good to devote an hour a day to study materials about the disease on the Internet or to communicate with people having the same diagnosis. It makes sense turning this information hour into regular everyday doing not to miss it. To avoid more tense stress alternate learning new information that may be scary with relaxation.

Step two. Anger

It is quite natural for a person to reveal anger after learning the sad truth about his disease as it indicates that he has started realizing what is going on with him. Anger toward oneself, doctors, parents and whoever else in this case means that a person can not understand why the disaster has so unjustly occurred to him not someone else. However, this stage must not be very long otherwise the person may grow angry and aggressive.

Redirecting anger is the best way to cope with this stage and suffer fewer losses at that. Imagine that your disease is an enemy that must be defeated with various treatment methods. This stage is good for making a detailed plan of treatment and outlining what actions will be taken to defeat the disease. Better set yourself minor objects that can be attained within 2-3 months.

Step three. Bargaining

This stage makes a person reconciled with his disease by bargaining with himself and with God. He decides to keep up to a diet and take medications and then disease will be over, he thinks. Or a person indulges himself as a way of reconciling to his disease like ‘I take medications this week and then may stop and it will be quite OK.’

One should know that any disease is a normal companion of his in life but not a punishment for sins and consequently will have no recess. This stage should be devoted to normalization of a disease, in other words a patient needs to take his disease as a normal part of life and learn to live with it. This period is for getting more information about the disease, other people’s experience of the disease and sharing this experience with similar patients.

Step four. Depression

If negation or bargaining do not work the crisis caused by a diagnosis overwhelms a patient and a depression may develop. The above stages may take just a couple of days with some people while others may fall in depression just in several months after learning a terrible diagnosis. This stage may seem hopeless when people are inclined to think that there is no good trying to cure the disease and have even suicidal intentions. Mind that this is just one of the five stages through which all patients go and that never lasts too long.

Visit a doctor in case of a severe depression to get qualified treatment of the ailment with antidepressants and psychotherapy. Planning everyday activities may help successfully cope with the hard period. Have more appointments with nice people every day to talk, walk or watch a movie. It is not comfort and care of other sympathizing people that helps cope with the depression but presence of close and devoted people who will demonstrate that the disease has not changed the relations that have previously existed between you and them.

Step five. Acceptance

The last stage means acceptance of the fact that a chronic disease will not vanish. After the four previous stages a man feels regenerated and able to live a full life having his scary diagnose. This stage is a good opportunity to review one’s life and set new priorities. It often happens that the crisis caused by getting a terrible diagnosis helps people get new interests and ambitions. We hear that people say their way of living has radically changed thanks to their disease. Indeed, a disaster that does not kill makes us stronger. So learn to take a scary diagnose as this disaster that may make you stronger and change your life for the better.


Translated by Maria Gousseva