Monday, February 13, 2012

No, really, I'm out to get me...

I've been accused of being paranoid in the past. When I told my parents that the kids in grade school were ganging up against me when I was first labelled "corroded" by David Breakstone in first grade after fishing out something of mine that had fallen into an empty garbage can to when I was in 5th grade, and I was asked out by Marc Leferman, and it all turned out to be a prank, they reacted with, "No they aren't out to get you." When, in high school, my "ethics" teacher would leer at me, and make terribly offensive jokes in class, I was certain he was targeting me and my sensitivities, but I was assured he wasn't out to get me. (Of course, when he called me a "Spic Shikse" in front of the class because I'd gotten higher grades than the more observant kids in the class, I think I proved my point.)

But, this whole cancer thing has brought in a whole new reign of paranoia. If my ring finger on my fight hand itches at the tip, is it a breast cancer cell the chemo missed? Is it a side effect of one of the drugs I'm taking? Is it post-chemo detox? Or is it just an itch?

I used to laugh with my survivor friends before I was diagnosed as they spoke about this fear that a cold was the cancer coming back. And, in the back of my skeptical mind, I thought they were exaggerating. Now, I fear, I'm far worse than any of them.

Perhaps it's because my cancer was detected randomly, and not because there were any symptoms, that I'm even more aware of things that feel out of place. My equilibrium for what is "normal" and "just a " is completely thrown off. The fact that my lips are chapped and skin flaky must be because of the chemo, right? Or is it because I'd forgotten to drink water all day? Wait! I forgot to drink water all day! That must mean that I've got chemo brain! Or the cancer is making me not thirsty! Or, I've gotten obsessive about the task at hand and I've just forgotten to eat or drink. Wait a minute... I haven't eaten anything all day. Oh, no! I've lost my appetite! No, you're just an idiot.

These are the thoughts that run through my mind, in between the urge to call my doctor anytime there is a pang of discomfort, or a pea under my proverbial mattress.

Of course, that really is the question - What is serious enough to tell the doctor?

All kidding aside, when you've been diagnosed with cancer, you start reading and learning about all these insidious, benign little symptoms that we either brushed off for months, leading up to the diagnosis, or that could be a sign of cancer returning, or located someplace else. Additionally, if you're in treatment with chemotherapy, drugs or any combination, you've had to read warning labels, side-effect listings that make the Manhattan White Pages look like Cliff's Notes, and stories about people who had a nail split and was diagnosed with terminal cancer as a result.

I ask this question not because I have the answer, but because I'd like to know.

I had a 30-minute coughing fit for no particular reason yesterday. It was so bad that I nearly rear-ended a car, and, when I pulled into a parking lot, continued to be so bad I nearly lost bladder control, came close to throwing up and I think I burst a blood vessel. Do I call the doctor? And if so, which one? My oncologist, as it could be a drug/chemo side effect? My plastic surgeon, because I could have pulled something? My primary care physician (with whom I've had all of 2 conversations in the past year) because it could be something else? Who do I call? What the hell was that?

Every little thing, now, seems to be a result of the cancer, a side effect, or, in the mind of a cancer fighter, a symptom of something that will prompt another series of frightening tests in large machines that beep, chirp, flash and whir.

What do we do? And when does it get better?

Why is my body out to get me?

1 comment:

  1. The cough I would look into. Pick a doctor's name out of the hat, it doesn't matter where you start. The oncologist will certainly take you seriously, your primary care physician may not be as inclined to if you've only spoke to him or her only twice in the past year. Sometimes, a cough is just a cough, but it irritates something so it persists and irritates some more, and you know the rest. But sometimes, David Breakstone has returned, rubber face and all, to haunt you.


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