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Health Psychology - How to Deal With Illness and Surgery
Recently I had surgery and it reminded me of the intricate manner in which body and mind interact. From the time that my physician recommended the operation until it actually occurred took four years. The waiting was difficult and somewhat unsettling at times. It took three ophthalmologists and four bookings before I actually saw the operating room.
In the meantime, I needed to schedule a week away from the office, ensure that the refrigerator was full and arrange for someone to be with me during the procedure. There were pre-operation interviews and a medical history to complete. I was always asked "do you have any questions, but the best ones seemed to occur after I had left the professional or hung up the phone.
For weeks before the operation, I guarded my health knowing that if I developed a cold, I might have to wait a year or more to be rebooked. I heard about a variety of experiences from others who had had similar procedures and at times piecing the information together was somewhat overwhelming.
Finally, the day arrived. The alarms rang and I hurried to remove my nail polish and have the required shower. I dressed and my son was ready to drive me to the hospital. Then I realized that I couldn't find my Health Care Card. I had the private insurance document and the non-group supplemental card but not the Health Care Card. I quickly went to my online banking site and wrote down the number from my automatic debit transaction. Thankfully, I had been a patient in this hospital before and they accepted me with the information that we jointly held.
More tests. More questions. Couldn't find a vein for the intravenous.
The waiting was relieved when I was told that the surgeon was ahead of schedule and so I headed to surgery twenty minutes ahead of what was expected. Each of the staff members introduced themselves and clearly explained their role. I was tired and relieved enough to think that I really didn't need the local anesthetic.
Four years and the goal was being met.
Can you imagine how surprised I was to have the surgeon who had received acclaim as the best in Canada to explain to me that he was disappointed with the result and may have to operate again? I cried - more than once.
I don't think it was just the result that brought tears. It was the whole process that caused psychological stress.
I'm not complaining - not in the least. I had wonderful support from family, friends, and professionals. My ailment was not life-threatening or even one that would prevent healthy living. The possibilities for a successful second surgery are good.
What I did learn through this experience, however, was how difficult it can be to cope with health problems, especially when we have little control regarding the outcome. I believe that my understanding and compassion have increased. As well, I understand the importance of having good supports through difficult times.
Health psychologists are trained to help individuals who are experiencing situations that prevent or interfere with wellness. If you are trying to deal with an illness, injury or upcoming procedures ensure that you have someone who will help you through it. I think you'll be glad you made this choice.
About the Author
Dr. Hancock has written a regular weekly column entitled “All Psyched Up” for newspapers in two Canadian provinces for more than a dozen years...