Tuesday, 19 November 2013

My Invisible Fear and Anxiety

For the most part I've been able to enjoy life and live each moment to the fullest since I finished my chemo and have been in remission.  I look back at all my fun activities and deep moments of connection with family and friends in the last 16 months and I can truly say that life is good.  Now here comes the but.  I still grieve for the singing voice I used to have.  This was such an integral part of my identity.  I would sing around the house.  I would sing with the radio.  I would sing in the shower.  I would sing while I played the piano.  I sang all the time.  I can sing tenor now and maybe on a good day, I can sing in the alto range.  But regardless of the day, my throat hurts after singing and there feels like there is a lump of hard something in the throat.  I have returned to singing in the choir at church although I have not been to practice or church for the last couple of weeks because I was busy.

On November 9, we travelled to a dear friend's 80th birthday party.  This was in another city and required staying overnight.  We enjoyed seeing our friend and her family.  It was a wonderful afternoon tea in a century home called Osler House which is a bed and breakfast as well.  The tea was excellent as well as the dainty sandwiches, pickles, homemade scones with jam and clotted cream, the shortbread and the birthday cake.  The afternoon went by very quickly. This lady is the mother of my husband's childhood friend.  We don't see these friends very often any more as we have all moved away.  We went off to our hotel and settled in to relax for a bit before we went to dinner with my husband's friend.  I was very tired which could be explained from the travel as well as the rush to get some Christmas baking done for an early family Christmas gathering on Nov. 16.  But regardless of the logical reasons why I may have a deep fatigue where it is difficult to complete my day, I do have fear of the lymphoma returning.  We did have dinner with our friends and as has been happening for the last number of weeks, I had bloating, gas and stomach pain.  This has been happening after every meal and snack that I have ingested since Thanksgiving.  Again my invisible companions that are fear and anxiety let me know they are with me.  The next day, my husband and I made a short jaunt to visit our son at university and have lunch with him before returning home.  It was so nice to see him!!

As I mentioned, I've been very tired and dragging.  Night sweats have returned with a vengeance.  They may be caused by menopause and I wouldn't be as worried except that I have the deep fatigue which I had in the summer and fall of 2011 before being diagnosed.  These 2 symptoms combined with the new symptoms of belly pain, bloating, acid reflux and indigestion feed the anxiety and fear that hum just under the surface of my consciousness. I've been handling my anxiety by keeping busy.  As I mentioned, I spent the last couple of weeks baking and cooking in preparation for a family Christmas gathering we had this past weekend.  It's been a busy time which could explain my fatigue.  Before I played the piano at the Cancer Centre on Friday, I had packed the van with all the food, presents and our clothing so we could get on the road for the trip to my hometown.  We left Friday at 1:00, picked my son up at his university and continued to my brother's home where we stayed Friday and Saturday night.  This was eight hours of driving.  We drove another four hours (round trip) to the Christmas event on Saturday and then another eight hours home on Sunday. Extended family is important and we really enjoyed ourselves even though my symptoms were constantly with me.

In the midst of the preparations last week, I had a scheduled check-up at the Cancer Centre.  This is when my blood work is done to look for the elevated protein in the blood that would indicate lymphoma.  When I was diagnosed with the specific type of lymphoma on January 4, 2012, that protein was not elevated in my blood work. I was seen by a "fellow" (like a student doctor).  I told him about my fears and hoped that I would be reassured that everything was fine.  He examined me.  What has added to my anxiety is that he was tapping and feeling around my abdomen on the left side.  He spent a fair amount of time in that area which I believe is where the spleen is.  I remember that an enlarged spleen is another identifier of lymphoma.  After talking with me and examining me, he went to confer with his mentor which is the hematologist that I have been assigned to since Dr. Meyer moved away.  I am now waiting for an appointment to be scheduled for a CT scan.  The hematologist wanted the CT scan done this week.  I remember vividly that the waiting and the unknown future feed my anxiety and fears.  It doesn't help that this is all happening just like it did 2 years ago.  It was exactly 2 years ago that I had a sore throat and hoarseness.  The same symptoms are happening again.  So I find myself praying and repeating my mantra "one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".  I'm trying to take one moment at a time.  When the fear starts to take hold, I focus on one breath at a time.

I'm also continuing to take each day as a gift.  I fill it with responsibilities to keep me distracted from my fear.  I spend my "down time" with family and friends as well as practising the piano.  Making music is a balm to my soul and helps ease the tightness of anxiety that is taking hold.  Friends and family see me and I look well.  I smile.  I laugh.  I enjoy their company.  I don't want to appear as a neurotic "basket case".  However, the fear and anxiety are there.  There has been an entry in my Mark Nepo book, "The Book of Awakening" that mentions identifying the emotion, acknowledging it and then breathing deeply to release it.  I find this helps because it acknowledges the reality of what I'm feeling and then I can breathe and release it for a little while.  This is especially helpful in these times when I'm waiting for appointments and I have no "news" to share.  I don't want to worry my friends and family needlessly so I carry my fear and anxiety within until I either have confirmation that everything is just fine or that we have the next step.........  My hope is that everything will be fine but my fear is that the lymphoma is returning.

I guess I'm writing all this to remind myself and others that people aren't always what they seem.  We may see people on the street who look "normal" and "healthy" but they may be struggling with demons of which we are not aware.

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