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What To Do If You're Blindsided By A Medical Diagnosis

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Louis DeLuca / The Dallas Morning News
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Jeffrey Weiss has been a reporter for 35 years.

Update: Jeffrey Weiss died Oct. 25, 2017. He was 62. Read his obituary from The Dallas Morning News. 

Death is inevitable, but few are willing to confront it publicly. Jeffrey Weiss has been a reporter for 35 years, and he’s in the middle of writing the story of his life – a series about his own brain tumor.

Weiss showed few symptoms of glioblastoma. Then he developed a blind spot in his right eye, and doctors discovered an egg-sized tumor in his brain.

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Credit Louis DeLuca / The Dallas Morning News
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A scan of Jeffrey's brain. The dark mass on the right is his tumor.

“Because I’ve been a reporter most of my life, it caused me to react in ways that I’m pretty sure the doctor who was talking to me thought I was nuts,” he says.

Though this is his third bout with cancer, Weiss says he’s more focused on doing things he likes – and he’s monitoring his illness with a journalist’s eye.

6 Steps To Take If You're Blindsided By A Brain Tumor

Here are Jeffrey Weiss's suggestions for a patient, or caregiver, after a cancer diagnosis:

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Credit Louis DeLuca / The Dallas Morning News
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Jeffrey's wife Marni (far right) looks on as a nurse draws blood.

  1. Web research - Do some research quickly after your diagnosis.
  2. Reach out - I used the results of my searches — including several recent major medical journal reports on glioblastoma treatments — to come up with people I wanted to email.
  3. Advocate - If at all possible, have an adult advocate involved in what you are doing. Husband, wife, friend, whatever. No matter how with it you think you are, you aren’t. You may be ill; for certain you’re distracted.
  4. Choice of treatments - As quickly as you can, come up with a set of choices for where you want to consider treatment. Some illnesses have very limited choices, some have more. You want to find the best place for you, and some are better than others.
  5. Keep checking for info - Don’t stop looking for information online after you choose your doctor.
  6. Don't become passive.  Even after you’ve chosen your doctor, do not go passive. If you come up with new questions, ask them. And if you don’t get answers at a reasonable pace, push.

Here’s my best meta-thought about how to go after treatment for a serious illness: Good and fast research will lead to effective questions. Getting answers from doctors will help you understand what’s happening and may nudge the doctors toward their most effective work.
Read the full article here

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and KERANews.org. She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.