Sunday, 7 April 2013

Will The Fear Ever Leave?!

This nagging fear that I live with has been what I was afraid would happen once I found out I was in remission last May.  There is always an underlying, simmering fear that the lymphoma will return.  That's the emotional part of me.  Then there is the logical part of me that says the odds are very low that "It" will return.  This is the constant fear and conflict that simmers within me.

The symptoms I had with the lymphoma were symptoms that are so common with minor colds or flus.  I was really fortunate that I didn't catch any viruses all winter long.  However, my "luck" ran out and I've had a sinus cold/flu for the last 2 weeks.  As I experienced an overwhelming fatigue, clogged sinuses, and a sore/achy throat, I started to fret that the lymphoma was returning.  As I was resting, I googled "lymphoma relapse symptoms".  Didn't I come across an anecdote where someone had it return as a tumour in their sinuses with all the symptoms of a major sinus cold!  Now what was I thinking that I would google that!!!!  So I talked myself out of panicking and settled myself somewhat.  However.....the underyling anxiety and fear is still there.

I am breathing better and the sinuses are cleared except for first thing in the morning.  So I can logically tell myself that this was just a cold/flu.  However, there has been more pressure at the site of the original tumour in my neck.  There has been achiness in the neck muscles as well.  I still get breathless.  My stomach has a tendency to feel nauseous at various times of the day.  I have been having more night sweats at night.  I can explain these symptoms away.  The neck pressure and achiness can be attributed to the cold.  The breathlessness can be attributed to the cold because I was having trouble breathing through the clogged sinuses.  The vague nauseousness can be explained as nerves and fear. The night sweats can be attributed to menopause.  The achiness in the neck an be attributed to the need for a chiropractic adjustment which is regularly scheduled for this Tuesday.  But......all these symptoms can also be the lymphoma returning.  I see my oncologist for a check up on Wednesday. The knowledge of that appointment has been like a life ring that I've been clinging to in order to help keep the fears at bay.  The blood tests that he always has me do before the appointment are supposed to show a protein that gets elevated if the lymphoma returns.  The blood levels (white cell, red cell and platelets) all get tested as well.

For the last two weeks, I've kept my fears to myself.  I don't want to be told that I worry too much.  I don't want to be told that the fears are groundless.  I get the distinct feeling as the months trudge along that my husband doesn't want to even think that the lymphoma might return.  I don't think anyone can understand what I'm truly feeling unless they've been through it and know what it is like to have a nagging, constant anxiety.

If there is a good side to this simmering anxiety, it is that I refuse to accept the status quo in life.  I still have a feeling of urgency to experience life fully.  When I wasn't teaching, I used to always think about work and worry about what was coming up next as far as recitals, competitions, etc.  Now, when I'm not teaching, I'm enjoying doing activities with my husband.  I still have my bucket list....oh I'm sorry, my husband calls it a "living list"....that I'm still trying to experience.

As I re-read this post while writing it, the readers may think I'm feeling down in the dumps.  I'm actually listening to some jigs and reels which keep my spirits up.  I'm not letting the anxiety take over but it simmers under the surface as I enjoy life.  I'm constantly enjoying having a friend living back in town after having been away for a few years.  I'm enjoying friends, family and spending time with my husband.  I'm making plans for my summer.  Every once in a while, the anxiety bubbles to the surface as fear.  I face it.  When I talked to my husband the other day, I pragmatically suggested that his immediate plans don't change regardless of the outcome of my appointment on Wednesday.  So if I find out that the lymphoma has returned, I want him to continue to go on a golfing holiday with our son.  I want him to continue to play softball with our son in the league they just signed up for.

The reality is that there is a 15 per cent chance that the lymphoma may return.  On the days that I get overwhelmed with fear, I remind myself that this percentage translates to an 85 per cent that it will stay in remission.  Once December of this year arrives, the percentage of relapse drops to 5 to 10 per cent.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a sunny afternoon pruning my grapevines until my hands were too cold to feel the grapevines.  Then I enjoyed a Sugar Shack Ale (made with maple syrup) on the patio with my husband.  We listened to the chickadees, blue jays, cardinals and robins.  Then we got cold and came indoors.  Last night we enjoyed some warm camraderie and fellowship with some very close friends while we watched Hockey Night in Canada.  So life continues to be good and enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. You are right Cathy: no one can truly understand what you're feeling unless they've been through it, no matter how supportive and compassionate they are. You, and only you, can personally relate to the trauma, fear and anxiety that accompany this disease. And you don't need to explain these feelings or justify them. Just thinking about getting cancer is frightening, never mind what it's like to someone like you who has experienced it firsthand. I hope that as time progresses, it will become better and better for you. And I think that now that spring is here and you'll get more time in the garden, you'll have happier things occupying your time and thoughts.