Joy in the Moment

Don’t Worry Unless Your Health Care Professional Tells You to Worry!

By Joy Pape

Have you ever received a medical report you didn’t fully understand?  It happens often. And the worst is receiving it on a late Friday or weekend.

These days we get results from the lab, radiology or even an after-visit summary before our health care provider (HCP) does.  We may not fully understand what we’ve received. When this happens, for many of us, our thoughts take us to the ‘dark’ side.

I am a board-certified nurse practitioner. It has even happened to me, so it has most likely happened to you.

Before I was a nurse practitioner, I was traveling when I received a lab report on a late Friday afternoon. There were some ‘out of the normal range’ levels that scared me. My HCP’s office was closed. I dreaded the weekend. I didn’t want to worry all weekend. What good would it have done?

By that time in my life, I had already learned that worry is a waste of time. That’s when I put in practice these words regarding my health…Don’t Worry Unless My Health Care Professional Tells me to Worry! When I noticed I was concerned, I changed my mind to think about other things and had a great weekend. I talked with my HCP Monday morning and found out all was fine. I’m so glad I didn’t waste the weekend worrying.

Since that time, many of my patients have reached out to me concerned about things they have been told or read either by their healthcare provider, records or the internet. I tell them, “Don’t worry unless your health care provider has told you to worry.” I have been thanked many times for those ‘words of wisdom.’

I recently had a ’spot’ that needed to be looked into. I have a family history of cancer. Because of this, I was referred to a cancer specialist. That alone was enough of a concern. Then, finding the ‘right’ physician and getting an appointment in a timely manner felt like more than enough to deal with.

I finally got an appointment and had a biopsy. This time, the doctor warned me I would most likely receive the results before she did. Of course, this happened. I decided to wait to hear from her. She contacted me, told me the results were inconclusive and recommended I come back.

Did I worry? Well, the “worry thoughts” tried me and even tried to get me to look to the internet. I reminded myself, “this is not my specialty” and, just like I recommend to my patients, I need to stay away from the internet until I really know what I’m dealing with, and most likely still stay away unless my HCP guides me to ‘safe’ sites.

I had my follow up appointment and got the word. “Things look fine for now.” We agreed on a future follow up visit because when there is a family history of almost any condition, it’s important to follow up for prevention, early detection or treatment for best outcomes.

My personal and professional experience is to remember these words…Don’t worry unless YOUR health care professional has told you to worry.

I hope you don’t waste your time on worry. Remember, worry is usually related to future ‘what ifs.’ Worry and fear are not related to the moment. I wish you joy in the moment.

Joy Pape, FNP-CDCES, CFCN is a board-certified nurse practitioner who believes in and practices holistic health and healing. She is a board- certified diabetes care and education specialist and also specializes in weight management. She practices at the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian. She also has a private practice located in the West Village.