The idea for this post originated not from one of my OPW clients, but actually from one of my home care patients. There is a really strong message to be found in this story, so stick with me on this one.
For those of you who don’t know, I still see a few home care patients on the side. They are mostly older patients who have just come home from the hospital and are sometimes really sick. This particular patient started out super sick at our first meeting, but was making AMAZING progress with her therapy. From the time I worked with her, she went from not being able to walk across the apartment to walking around a full block, going up and down stairs, and just killing it in general! I watched her mood drastically shift from depressed to happy, empowered and excited to get back to normal life.
Flash forward to her first follow-up visit with the doctor. She received a new diagnosis of COPD, a chronic respiratory condition. Up until this point, she really was having no problems with shortness of breath and was making great progress, yet as soon as that label of “COPD patient” was slapped on her she suddenly felt trapped. Her optimism quickly turned to fear that she would never be “normal” again.
Enter my pep-talk: DO NOT LET YOUR DIAGNOSIS DEFINE YOU! Just because someone assigns you this “label” does not mean you cannot get better and do everything you love to do! It doesn’t matter if we are talking about COPD, hip impingement, an ankle sprain or chronic low back pain. YOU are not COPD. YOU are not hip impingement. You are a strong and capable person and WILL get back to everything you love if you work at it. Your diagnosis does not define you.
So what is a diagnosis then? Basically, it’s giving a name to the symptoms you are experiencing. Yes, it is helpful in the medical world because it helps us know what is going on but that doesn’t always translate into helpful information for the patient. Unfortunately, these diagnoses are made up of big fancy medical terms that you probably don’t understand and can honestly be downright scary. Hearing terms like “degenerative”, “disease”, chronic... pretty much all negative and do the opposite of empower you! But I am telling you, they are just a label so please do not let these words scare you into feeling like you are any less and will never be able to do the things you love.
Focus on the positive and how your body is feeling, not the words assigned to you. Because they are just that… words. They should never limit anyone’s expectations of what you can accomplish. I promise you can still exercise, lift weights, dance, throw a ball with your son, or do whatever the hell it is that you want to do!! Now of course, depending on your symptoms, you might have to modify how you do these things it a little bit, but you are by no means allowing that diagnosis to dictate what you can and cannot do with your life.
One person who can help you learn how to break down the barriers of a diagnosis is your Physical Therapist. Just keep in mind it is really important to surround yourself with medical providers who have a positive mindset about helping people versus a negative one. There are some really great PT’s and really bad ones. A really great one will look at your diagnosis, but then push it aside while they assess what is actually happening in your body and what you are feeling. You will work together as a team to set goals to accomplish all the things you want to do, and most importantly, they will be right by your side EMPOWERING you to take control of your wellness. VERSUS a bad PT who just looks at that diagnosis and immediately has a preconceived notion about what you can and cannot do. If ANY of your medical team lumps you into a category… time to find a new medical team :-)
No matter what the diagnosis, you got this. Listen to your body, set goals that seem like they might be too high, and work hard. Your diagnosis does not define you!