The other day, as I was getting out of bed to go brush my teeth and start my day, I noticed the weirdest feeling in my feet. It was as if I was wearing thick woolen socks, up to mid-calf or so- but I was barefoot. My immediate reaction? I texted my oncologist, of course. (Yes, that's right- my oncologist is so hip that she texts me to keep in touch.) Her diagnosis: peripheral neuropathy, not uncommon with a platinum-based chemotherapy regimen. A little extra vitamin B6 in my diet and I was set.
Now, it would be nice if this contact with my doctor was rare these days, or at least limited to maybe one or two texts outside of appointments. But it feels like almost every week, I have some new concern about a weird symptom, strange new feeling, or potential injury. I might have been a hypochondriac before, but having cancer certainly super-charged my hypochondria to the point of near-neurosis.
Every bump and bruise, every ache, and every extra flutter of my heart (I get anxious fairly easily) seems to merit a text to my oncologist, who luckily always responds and calms me down. But at what point is it too much? Am I right to over-worry about my health after under-worrying and getting such a scary diagnosis?
There were quite a lot of signs that I know now were cancer indications. I had a backache for at least a month beforehand, due to my foot-long abdominal tumor. I was always exhausted- college students don't go to bed at 10PM nightly, especially not those trying to graduate on time post-transfer. And after losing a bit of weight, I'd hit a month-long plateau. All signs of my cancer, none of which I connected or would have attributed to terminal illness. I was 19 -- I wasn't going to assume I had cancer!
But these days, I'm the opposite. I get a hot flash and suddenly I'm on WebMD, frantically checking to see if I need to bust my butt over to the emergency room (the nurses there know me quite well by now). I know the first step in defeating a problem is recognizing you have one, and I certainly recognize my newfound fear of getting sick again -- to the point of worrying that a headache or sweating too much could be my death sentence. But I know that it's going to take me a while to get over.
Now, reading over my own words, it sounds a little silly. A headache won't be the end of me. But a backache didn't seem like it might be, either, and seeing how that turned out has left me both emotionally and physically scarred. (Seriously, why hasn't my surgical scar faded much after 8 months? It's not pretty.) It'll take work to get over, and slowly but surely, I'm putting in the effort to do so.
But in the meantime, the next time I start to get anxious? You can bet I'll have both my doctor and my mother on the phone within ten minutes.