August 9, 2022 |  written by IVX Health

You Were Just Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness… Now What?

Chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, etc.) and autoimmune diseases (Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, etc.) are something we’ve all heard about. But how equipped are we to deal with them should they come knocking at our front door? 

A young businessman concentrating on his work on his laptop
A young businessman concentrating on his work on his laptop

What should you do if you’re diagnosed with a chronic or autoimmune illness?

“Chronic illness” is an umbrella term that broadly defines conditions that last for one year or more and require ongoing medical care or make participation in activities of daily living difficult – or both. An autoimmune disease is a chronic illness in which the body’s immune cells deliberately target healthy tissues and attack them.

Chronic illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, etc.) and autoimmune diseases (Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, etc.) are something we’ve all heard about. But how equipped are we to deal with them should they come knocking at our front door?

The Moments After You Get the Diagnosis

Hearing the words “chronic illness” and “autoimmune disease” can be frightening, mentally jarring, and emotionally devastating. A myriad of thoughts instantly race through your mind. Like the rest of us, you’ve heard about these illnesses for years.

Your healthcare provider will guide you in your first steps immediately after delivering your diagnosis. They will already have a tentative treatment plan in mind for you and will begin right away to steer you where you need to go, who you need to see, and what initial interventions you’ll need. Your treatment plan will develop and adapt as your condition changes and improves, all of which your healthcare provider will oversee.

Your emotions may hit you like a flood after the diagnosis. Expect feelings of distress, as though you’re stuck on an emotional roller coaster. You may discover you’re experiencing various stages of grief — denial, bargaining, anger, and sadness.

You’re going to have good days and bad days. Be sure to remind yourself that these feelings and erratic moods are normal and are likely to diminish and settle with time. Once the initial shock wave from the news has dulled a bit, turn your mind toward adjustments to your work, social life, and daily routines that may become necessary.

Where Should You Start?

The most crucial point to remember is this: There is no right or wrong response to your diagnosis. Coming to terms with and accepting a chronic autoimmune disease diagnosis may be a slow and painful process, but without going through it, you can’t come out stronger on the other side.

Knowledge Is Power

This truism is applicable when it comes to your health. The more you know about the disease you’re facing, the better equipped you’ll be to confront it, to understand what’s happening in your body, and how you can adapt to this new circumstance of your life.

Here are a few tips to get you started on building your knowledge base:

  • Make a written list of questions for your doctor before your next appointment
  • Search patient organization websites for advice (always run it by your doctor before putting anything into action)
  • Make sure your information comes from a reliable, reputable source
  • Remember that everyone is different – what is helpful for one person may not work the same for you
Keep in mind that you’re not on the clock, so move at a pace at which you’re comfortable.

Combatting Stress

Dealing with chronic autoimmune disease is stressful. There are measures you can take on your own that may help.

  • Get as much physical activity as you can (with your physician’s permission)
  • Stick to a healthy diet
  • Avoid harmful coping mechanisms like alcohol and illicit substances
  • Consider stress-relieving activities like meditation
  • Maintain relationships with family and friends
  • Ask for help when you need it

Although you may not need it now, find out what resources are available to you should you need help down the line.

Available Resources

Compile the information and stow it away in your “in case I need it” file. Examples of potential resources include:

  • Support groups. You can learn new ways to cope with your illness from the coping strategies that have worked for others. In support groups, other people who combat the same disease share their approaches and experiences.
  • Individual counseling. For some, addressing problems in a one-on-one setting works better. Individual counseling may allow you to discuss your personal feelings more effectively about your illness and its impact on your life.
  • Family and couples counseling. Because chronic illness frequently affects the entire family, you may need a family or couple-trained mental health provider.
Your healthcare provider is an excellent source to get you started when investigating local resources available to you.

Preparing for Infusion Therapy

One method of treatment for chronic and autoimmune diseases is infusion therapy. Infusions can deliver medications for chronic diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, dehydration, and other complex chronic conditions that are treated with biological therapeutic agents.

Your healthcare provider will review any preparations needed for your specific infusion therapy. You can do some general preparations on your own to prepare yourself for that first infusion treatment. Here are some suggestions to meet potential challenges with your first infusion therapy treatment.

General Expectations

Intravenous (IV) therapy usually occurs in infusion centers, doctor’s offices, outpatient facilities, hospitals, or the home.

At all IVX Health infusion centers, we offer private suites with comfortable seating for patients and guests to ensure safe, private infusions for people with chronic conditions. We also provide complimentary snacks, high speed WiFi, and flat screen TVs in each infusion suite to make a nerve-wracking experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

Regardless of the administration method or the setting where you receive your infusion therapy, it is a process that requires careful monitoring. It will take a minimum of 15 minutes to several hours, so make sure you have something to occupy your time while you’re receiving the treatment.

The Needle

You’ll have a new needle inserted at each IV session, so you may need an alternative to a standard IV line if you require multiple therapy sessions. Your healthcare provider may order a central IV line in the arm, neck, chest, or groin that can remain in place for an extended period of time once inserted.

If needed, an infusion port is an alternative. This device is a surgically implanted access point placed under your skin. When you need an infusion, your healthcare provider inserts the needle into the port rather than sticking your vein.

How Often?

The intervals between infusions vary depending on the chronic condition for which you’re receiving treatment and the type of infusion administered. Infusion intervals range from a few days to several weeks. How often you receive your infusions is up to your healthcare provider, so be sure to add this to your list of questions.

Will the Infusion Hurt?

Most infusion medications do not hurt. Placement of the IV may be briefly uncomfortable, but there shouldn’t be any pain while the infusion itself is running in.

Infusion Side Effects

There may be some mild-to-moderate side effects, but severe adverse reactions are rare. Premedication before the infusion session can help reduce common side effects. Check with your healthcare provider for information on adverse reactions to the infusion therapy you’ll receive.

Insurance Coverage

Whether your insurance company covers the costs of your infusion therapy depends on a range of variables. At IVX Health, our dedicated staff will work with you, your insurance company, and your healthcare provider to navigate the prior authorization process and make it as smooth as possible.

The Road Ahead

The road ahead of you after you’re diagnosed with a chronic or autoimmune illness may not be easy, but it is manageable, and you can survive it to live your best life. The staff at IVX Health is ready to assist you and support you in your journey to wellness. Contact us to find a center near you.

Treatment at IVX Health

If biologics like Remicade, Actemra or Orencia  are a part of your chronic illness treatment plan, then consider choosing IVX Health for your ongoing care needs. IVX Health makes it possible to receive your therapy in a comfortable, convenient, and private environment.

With a private suite for every patient, you can watch your favorite Netflix show or movie on the big screen TV in each room, use a laptop or other mobile device to surf the web, or simply hang out with family and friends. We always have chairs for guests, and each center has a family room that is spacious and private if you need to bring your kids to your treatment. We also offer flexible appointment scheduling – including evenings and Saturdays – at any of our convenient locations.

At IVX Health, we truly are invested in helping you live your best life. If you’re ready to experience a new kind of infusion clinic, click here to learn how to move your infusion or injection therapy to IVX Health.