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Walking the Fine Line Between Staying Informed and Becoming Obsessed

by Alesia Shute

Wellness image

Stop! Step away from the computer. With just one Google search, you can quickly become overwhelmed with too much information.

Consider what you see on the news today. Here in the U.S., headlines are dominated by the ever-struggling economy, the healthcare crisis, the demise of the real estate industry, the mess on Wall Street, gang violence, sexual abuse, and countless other negative news items. Worldwide, we hear about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, turmoil in the Middle East, and natural disasters happening more frequently on a global scale.

Yet despite the bad news, we continue to stay glued to FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN, listening to the same reports delivered differently – over and over again. With state-of-the-art technology bombarding us every minute, it’s easy to become obsessed with the news – whether it’s good for you or not.

So what happens when you or someone you love is diagnosed with a catastrophic illness like cancer? Today, instinct immediately directs you to the Internet, where you type your cancer into Google and then wait for a flood of information to rush upon you. Everything you ever wanted to know about your body – and probably some things you didn’t – engulfs your screen. You spend hours reading about the symptoms, treatment, best practices, and anything else that will help you wage battle against your cancer. But will all this information really help you?

With cancer, there is a fine line between staying informed and becoming obsessed. The latter is easy to do. You’ve been given this devastating diagnosis, have committed to winning the fight, and you want all the ammunition you can muster for your conquest. But how do you know what information is accurate? What medical procedures are safe? Are the alternative measures being suggested clinically proven, or could they be even more dangerous to you than the cancer? Because of the obsession to know everything, you quickly become overwhelmed with too much information and you second-guess every treatment option presented to you.

Everything you ever wanted to know about your body – and probably some things you didn’t – engulfs your screen.

Author of Article photo

Alesia Shute
(Photo by Donna Connor)

So how do you stay informed without going crazy with information? Consider these tips:

♦ Digest what your doctors tell you first.
Between the Internet and the rows of books about cancer in bookstores, you will drive yourself insane if you try to read every piece of information there is about your diagnosis. By listening to your doctor first, and asking him or her for suggestions on where you can go to learn more, you’ll stay informed while keeping the facts contained to a small area, instead of opening the floodgates, which can lead to confusion and doubt. If you don’t trust your doctor, get a new one.

♦ Don’t believe everything you read.
If you find information that is of interest to you, ask your doctor about it before assuming that the information is valid. Many organizations, like the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov), offer excellent, detailed information that can be trusted. However, many websites and books proclaim alternative treatment is more successful, but only your doctors know the specifics of your case and what is best for your health.

♦ Tune out the noise.
Don’t get caught up in information overload. Stay out of the medical and health aisle at the bookstore, and turn off the computer. Instead, read a mystery novel or spend time with friends without focusing on your illness. Time away from thinking about your cancer is also important to the battle.

In today’s fast-paced world, we have to force ourselves to take a step back and be selective about the information we receive. Successful battles against cancer include staying informed about the disease, but don’t let cancer – and the abundance of information about it – consume you.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When Alesia Shute was diagnosed with colon cancer at age seven, her life was redirected, as was that of her entire family. She would go on to survive six major surgeries that had never been performed on a child, several minor surgeries, and months of hospitalization. Alesia had to grow up quickly and adjust to being sickly and different from others. Everything’s Okay is her story of survival that details not only her recovery, but also her struggles through school, boys, marriage, and pregnancy, with some hilarious tales of life and family to boot.

Contact Alesia from her website, EverythingsOkayBook.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2011.

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