Dealing With The “Great Expectations” of A Medical Appointment

It happens to all of us with chronic illness. We look at our calendar and see that appointment date sitting there. Looming in the future. It offers such promise. We feel a little excited at the prospect of what may come from it.

Hope. It offers hope.

It’s still 4 or 6 weeks away but it is indelibly printed on our mind. It’s like we have a post it note stuck to our forehead, which of course only we can see!

So Many Scenarios

If you are anything like me, you’ll probably think of many different scenarios of what could happen in this looming appointment. So many you could write a novel!

As you close your eyes to sleep at night, those scenarios will begin to play out in high definition colour.

Each scenario has its own unique outcome;

  • We have a cure – the ultimate outcome.
  • We have a new medication to take away all pain – I’d be very happy with that.
  • We can run more tests to see what else is going on – hmmm…that could be interesting!
  • We need to do more surgery – Noooo!!!!
  • We can’t do surgery – Thank goodness!
  • I need to refer you – Oh No, not another Specialist.
  • We need to admit you to hospital to stabilise you – I’m so over being in hospital, let me out of here!
  • We can’t do anything more, no cure, no treatment, we are sorry – Me too!

The Day Before The Big Event

The anticipation and excitement of thinking about your upcoming appointment, starts to fade a little the day before.

Nerves set in and the reality dawns on you that you have to physically get there. That’s hard work. You’re chronically ill and in pain. Going anywhere is difficult. Sitting in Specialist waiting rooms is not an ideal past time.

Random thought: Why are their chairs so uncomfortable and so unsuitable for the chronically ill?

The Big Day Arrives

You thought the day would never come but before you know it’s here.

You know you need to push through physically to get there. You have your own military style precision plan to get from your home to your Drs office. You just have to do it!

You make it there, sometimes with adventures you could do without along the way. It doesn’t matter though, what matters now is finding out which scenario will play out.

You have your notes, your questions, you’re ready.

No turning back now. Hope remains.

“Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” Romans 12 v 12


The Main Event

Months, weeks and days have been spent thinking about and planning for this one appointment. All that effort and it will soon be over before you know it!

If it’s a new Specialist you may get allocated 45 minutes (plus a lovely account to pay). If it’s a Specialist already on your team, 15 or 30 minutes is about the norm.

You get out your list eager to tick off every last item. In my experience points one and two on said list often open up a conversation which make points three to ten vanish into thin air. Sometimes those points are covered off during the discussion. That’s a bonus!

Your mind is quickly trying to take in the scenario the Specialist is placing before you. Is it your worst case or best case scenario? Hmm….you’ll have to think about that later.

You can feel the appointment coming to an end so you look at your phone again, just to check you’ve covered all items on your list.

Your Specialist stands up. It’s over! Time to go.

All that anticipation, all that thought, all that planning.

It’s not over though really. There is still the aftermath to come.

The Aftermath

Sometimes the aftermath is a positive experience. Your expectations were met. You have a care plan put in place. You have a follow-up appointment in a few months or maybe sooner. You leave with an exhilarated feeling and want to celebrate. Love those appointments!

Sometimes the aftermath is a world of pain. I’m not talking about a situation where your Specialist was unkind or uncaring. I know that can happen and it breaks my heart to read of those experiences.

For the purposes of this blog post, all Specialists are really good at what they do and genuinely care.

I’m talking about a situation where the scenario that played out was one of your worst case scenarios. Perhaps you were told ” I’m sorry, there is nothing more we can do but provide ongoing support”.

That kind of scenario needs time to process. Grief and all the wonderful stages that come with that process, begin to wash over you.

It is perhaps a turning point in your life, a crossroads. Changes you thought were way in the future might now need to be considered in the present.

Hope begins to fade!

Dealing with the “Great Expectations” Let Down

So what next? I could say dust yourself off and get on with it but we all know it’s not as easy as that.

For one thing you have invested so much emotionally in the lead up to the appointment, the let down of a worst case scenario hits incredibly hard.

So what can you do post appointment? I have a few ideas that may help with finding the positives in what seems like the end of the world right now;

  • Talk to someone you trust; your partner, a friend or family member or post on a closed support forum where you feel safe.
  • Don’t make rash decisions.
  • Sleep on it. Often the worst case scenario won’t seem quite as devastating the next day.
  • In the morning make a list of what was actually said at the appointment. Writing it down makes it real and helps you to digest it.
  • Next to each discussion point create an action item. For example, your Specialist may have said a Pain Management Course might be helpful. If that’s the case your action item might include;
    • Research online courses
    • Make an appointment with my GP to discuss a referral to a Pain Management Specialist
    • Ask others on support groups for recommendations
  • Keep working your way through the list until you have an action plan that is achievable and that helps give you some control over your situation.
  • Let hope return. The action plan will give you renewed purpose. When we remain in what we think is a hopeless situation, we can make a worst case scenario even harder to deal with.
  • Surround yourself with positive friends both online and in person. While you want empathy after a difficult appointment, you don’t need people who will fill you with stories that will just further lead you down a path of despair. You need understanding, support and encouragement.

Take Time Out

Sometimes the best thing to do when our “Great Expectations” have been dashed, is just to take time out.

Depending on your level of disability, maybe a mini holiday to relax or a shopping trip to indulge in a treat. Perhaps lunch or dinner with your partner or close friend somewhere with a beautiful outlook, or a drive in the country.

If like me your disability renders you housebound, there are still options. A bit of online shopping, watching a good movie while indulging with your favourite chocolate cake.

It really doesn’t matter what you choose to do, it just needs to be something non-medical that makes you feel alive.

Specialist appointments are par for the course with chronic illness. We need to develop coping strategies to help us through the difficult ones, as you can guarantee they will happen.

If you have a medical appointment looming that you have been thinking about for months or weeks, creating numerous scenarios, take a step back. Think about what strategy you will have in place if your “Great Expectations” don’t come to fruition.

Being prepared might just help you engage better in the appointment and it will certainly help you cope better in the aftermath.

Take care

Sam 💞


If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding & friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic & complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.

I’m a regular Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page

I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women

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WEGO Health Award 2018 Nominee

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6 thoughts on “Dealing With The “Great Expectations” of A Medical Appointment

  1. So true Sam. I can especially relate to having to have a treat after for having gotten myself there and mostly got through my notes and questions. Then there is the researching what doc said to see IF I want to try the new treatment. It takes so much energy. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers! Marla

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how light this article is – you’ve hit the nail on the head with a lot of personality! I had to take my 11-yo son to his specialist yesterday, and even though we left half an hour early, we were 10 minutes late because of all kinds of emergency vehicles and an unnecessary GPS detour! It was like all the things I always dread going to my own appointments rolled into one! Glad I’m not alone in the dread of medical appointments!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sam, Having recently had just such a monumental appointment with a specialist that told me I dont have cancer based on the latest CT, I felt euphoric until I got the actual report and saw a glaring error which now makes me question the prognosis given.

    The ups and downs of progressive chronic illness in my mind ia similar to being bipolar. Extreme highs and lows. Nothing ever seems benign or of little or no concern.

    Having a coping plan in place before my visit kept me much more level emotionally afterward. You’re right Sam, the only thing we can do is make a plan to move forward, whatever that looks like for us individually.

    Take care,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Cathy, I’m so sorry you have this question mark hanging over your head. It’s an awful feeling isn’t it. I’m in a similar situation with a couple of my health issues
      Reports say one thing, Drs say another and often different Specialists on my team don’t agree with each other.

      Our own coping plan is essential in the midst of it all.

      I hope your situation gets clarified very soon.

      Take care

      Sam xx


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