This is a book about what you must do to take care of yourself while your heart is breaking.

Receiving bad health news sparks great personal upheaval. Some people rage against the unfairness and some wither from sadness. Some people lose their faith, others find it. Some are torn between their fear of pain and their fear of death. Families are wracked by the threat of loss. It is a time when nothing is certain and the future looks dark.

And in the midst of this anguish, each one of us, irrespective of diagnosis — HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration — will by necessity undertake a number of tasks to care for ourselves that we have probably never done before but that can have an important impact on the lives of everyone involved. We will:


  • Respond to the shock
  • Learn about the condition and its treatments
  • Decide whether to involve others
  • Find the right doctors and hospitals
  • Get timely medical appointments
  • Seek other opinions about what is wrong and what to do about it
  • Manage our work lives
  • Pay for care
  • Find relief
  • Take the next steps

This book provides practical guidance about how you and your loved ones might approach these tasks while you are in shock about your diagnosis and uncertain about how to respond to it.

It summarizes what research has discovered about each of these tasks. It features interviews with scores of people from all walks of life who have taken on these tasks — as patients, as family members and as friends. It includes interviews with professionals who are involved with people just after they are diagnosed: doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, as well as insurance administrators, clinic staff, and employers.

I wrote this book in the hope that this information, these insights, and these experiences will provide its readers with a sense of their choices without making them feel overwhelmed by what they must learn and do.

More information about Aftershock: What to Do When the Doctor Gives You - Or Someone You Love - a Devastating Diagnosis