Living with cancer blog

Having all the information is a blessing and a curse

By Lonnie Fynskov, R.N. August 6, 2016

All of us wear many hats during life. In addition to being a daughter, wife, mother, friend, co-worker, etc., I'm a nurse. Having the acquired knowledge of a nursing education and career has been invaluable numerous times.

Other times, though, I wished I could be blissfully unaware of all the potential problems that may accompany a diagnosis or symptoms. I've inaccurately self-diagnosed myself with multiple illnesses ranging from multiple sclerosis to various cancers based on some fairly vague symptoms. Thankfully, I was rarely accurate.

Unfortunately, this pattern of thinking can extend to my family's health. When a member of my family was diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma, I immediately remembered the numerous people I'd worked with as patients with this same diagnosis. I found myself thinking of the worst case scenarios and wondering how we would deal with those.

People frequently tell me I'm lucky to be a nurse because I can understand what's happening and know what questions to ask. I always say that while that's true, it's also true that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

A few weeks ago, a mother who was caring for her adult daughter came to the Cancer Education Center. She was also a nurse and talked about the challenge of focusing on the here and now, rather than the memories of previous patients who had the same diagnosis as her daughter.

Our minds have a tendency to remember the extremes and healthcare experiences aren't an exception to that situation. During those times, I need to consciously remind myself of the many patients I've had the pleasure to work with who did well. They far outnumber those who experienced traumatic and unforeseen complications.

Prior to getting treatment, healthcare providers ethically need to share with you all the possible complications you may experience. For some, this causes more anxiety about the treatment or procedure.

You may not always hear the words "although this rarely happens" and instead remember the frightening words related to a possible complication. It's helpful to focus on how many times things go well and the outcome is exactly as expected.

How do you handle information that although helpful, may increase your anxiety about the situation? Please share with others in the comment section below.


Lonnie J. Fynskov, R.N.

Aug. 06, 2016