Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mechanics of Fear

I go up and down, cycling between fear and confidence. One hour, I'm terrified, thinking that bad mammogram means I have a new cancer.  I wonder how I can possibly do this again.  I worry about my job, knowing I can't put my workplace through another 3 month absence for a second year in a row. I wonder why chemo doesn't work for me.  I become certain the bone pain  I'm experiencing isn't tamoxifen side effects, but metastases.

The next hour, I realize that my odds of having a second cancer are still low. I know that once you've had cancer, they check every little mammography shadow. I remind myself that I just finished chemo and am still on herceptin and it would be exceedingly rare for me to have a new cancer now, before treatment has even ended. I calm down.

Soon, my nerves bubble up again,  I have another bout of doubt and I let my imagination go wild.  Not only do I have a new primary, I think, but this time it's spread.  I decide to write my obituary myself, and I think I'd better do my own funeral arrangements so nobody else has to.  I wonder whether hospice at a facility would be better than hospice at home for my family's mental sake.  I feel sad for my youngest son who will lose his mother at such an early age and hope it doesn't affect him for life.   I wonder if I can talk my older son into knocking up his girlfriend quick so I can at least meet my grandbaby.

Of course, I'm a rational person and I quickly go back to reality and realize I won't be planning any funerals,  and won't I feel silly about that thought when I hear that the "area of concern" they saw was a lipoma, or a cyst, which is what the odds say it is?  I stop worrying.

I wonder how long my dog will be sad without me. A week? Two?

I remember that my doctor said it was probably benign.

I wonder if I should buy an iPhone 4 now, even though it's not upgrade time. Who knows how long I'll have to use it? Should I also go to Disneyland and Hawaii?

I take comfort that I had an MRI a year ago that showed nothing, and a sonogram to drain cysts a few months ago also showed nothing.  Cancer doesn't grow that fast, the odds are with me.

This is exactly why they call cancer a roller coaster ride. And, I am not alone on that coaster. Millions of people who have had cancer - breast and otherwise - live with this fear of recurrence, new primaries or mets.

For some, each ache is a possible symptom and they start the ride.  For others, like me, I had to have a negative test to start the wheels spinning.  But, we are all brothers and sisters in that we all go through these times of fear and doubt.

We all agree that the fear of the unknown is the worst. I will be happy when Tuesday comes, and I can stop the roller coaster.

At least, for now.


  1. I hate the cancer roller coaster... Because of your medical history, blah, blah, blah, we need to be sure, blah, blah, blah... Just shut up will you and do the damn test NOW. I have been through this too many times already. Good luck to you - sending good thoughts.

  2. Keep the faith, so sorry that you have this horrible wait and uncertainty...

  3. Oh Boy!! I thought I was reading about myself. You cry you laugh you live in abject fear one minute then you are great the next of you get an ache or pain automatically you start thinking the very worst that cancer has spread. You do all those crazy things you mentioned. Honey take a deep breath and exhale!!

    With me unfortunately even after Chemo during the 6 month post chemo exam they found a couple little teeny cells that should not be there. Two weeks ago I had my second mastectomy.

    When it was over it was such a relief!

    I was first diagnosed in Feb 2009 Stage3 Grade3 and I definitely believed my life was over.
    I revert back to that dark place once in awhile but I decided instead of worrying about dying to concentrate more on living and do what I want to do in spite of Cancer!

  4. Your post is such an accurate chronicle of how I think sometimes. My husband gets so frustrated because I can turn any ache & pain into what he calls "elbow cancer." When he says that, I laugh at how preposterous it sounds, but he's not laughing, and I know I've mentally written my obituary and am looking for a suitable next wife for James. It's terrible we can't shake it off like some women, but it's comforting to know I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

  5. yup...that's a typical day in my brain! From fantasizing about dancing with my son at his wedding (he just turned 2)to worrying about who he'll be calling "mommy" in 5 years. it drives me BONKERS!


    Be well Ann! Just BE WELL! Nothing but positive thoughts coming your way in the next 24 hours, I'll toss in a miraculous prayer for you too.

  7. Hi Ann. Yes, I can identify with your post on every level. This cancer roller coaster ride gets the best of me, too, at times, and I NEVER would have been able to understand it so profoundly if I wasn't experiencing it myself.

    Just try and hang in there, and take it one day at a time. That, and prayer, are the only things we do have control over.

    Hope Tuesday goes well. Prayers to you, friend. :)

  8. Ann
    YOU WILL BE OK! You have been a positive role model for me and my wife over the last 7 months and helped us get through it all with your attitude...don't go SOUTH on us now. My wife is through the hard part, now the waiting. That being said - life is too short to worry. Be positive, you have no control over it anyway.
    Rick from Boston

  9. Thanks everybody! Glad to hear from you again Rick, and I hope your wife is well.

    I'll let ya'll know as soon as I do. :


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