Friday, January 24, 2014

Between Anxiety and Awareness

For the six months that I had chemo, I didn't have a single cold. I don't recall a sniffle, a scratchy throat, a stuffed up nose. Nothing. True, I lost my voice for a day after every round, but as everyone else in the house went through boxes of tissues that winter, the joke was that I was the healthiest person in the house.

Except for that cancer thing.

This winter I've had a couple minor colds -- which have quickly resolved themselves. And as the last one fully exited stage left, and as I had that great, post-cold day when you suddenly realize, 'oh, this is how it feels to be healthy," I started thinking about symptoms.

People process symptoms wildly differently - from paranoia and hyperbole to indifference. 

But a cancer diagnosis muddies the water here (doesn't it always). In the BC (before cancer) days, I remember thinking that there are so few days when we are 100 percent healthy. Few days when there is absolutely nothing physically wrong with us -- no scratchy throat, or runny nose, or headache, or insomnia, or fatigue, or indigestion, or sore muscle, or achy joint, or dried out skin, or scraped knee, or blister on a toe or whatever. These minor aches and pains came and went, but they barely registered as anything but an annoyance.

But in the AD (after diagnosis) life, even the most trifling of troubles can send you scurrying through the maze of self-diagnosis, with a cancer-related complication at every turn. Paranoia? Maybe. Anxiety? Sure, a little of that. 

There are so many stories of the grave consequences of undiagnosed symptoms. And in the middle of the night when your mind is vulnerable and your thoughts unchecked, it's easy to turn an upset stomach into a cancer recurrence.   

Symptom awareness comes with the territory, I suppose, and there's only a thin line separating it from anxiety. The trick is staying on the right side of the line.
  
--Michael

A Note about This Blog: With this post, I'm starting (or attempting) to start a more regular schedule of weekly posts. When I started the blog back on 7/1/11, the idea was that I would post when I felt the need. That was pretty frequently two years ago; it's less so these days. So with a regular schedule, I hope to get back to a weekly Friday night/Saturday am post.