Going into Life After Cancer, I thought I’d be spared from having high anxiety about relapse. I thought that my positivity would outshine the worries of cancer coming back and that I’d live a pretty anxiety-free life. HA!
For the most part, I’m pretty good about not jumping to crazy conclusions that I’ve relapsed. I try to think logically while at the same time making sure to listen to my body and continue to self-advocate.
Before my lymphoma diagnosis, I was constantly going to the doctor because I knew my body was trying to tell me something. In that process of constantly feeling like something was wrong or just that I was sick, a friend of mine called me a hypochondriac. That really stuck with me because, spoiler alert, the symptoms pointed to cancer.
It’s been two years since my last chemo, and sometimes when I vocalize that I’m feeling something in my body, I’m nervous to be accused of being a hypochondriac again, which actually happened last month! A coworker of mine literally asked me if I was a hypochondriac, KNOWING that I had cancer just a few years ago. I’m not going to lie: I did get defensive regarding his comment because, in my opinion, it is SO MUCH BETTER to be on top of your help and to communicate your concerns as opposed to letting the symptoms go by without doing anything about it.
Back to relapse — as I said, it’s been two years since my last chemo. It’s statistically proven that chance of relapse decreases when a patient hits the two-year mark of remission. But why does it feel like my health hasn’t really improved?
With chemo treatment come many long-term side effects that closely resemble cancer symptoms. In the past two years, I’ve experienced chest pains, shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety, back pains, and many more. Since my treatment, I’ve been diagnosed with chronic lung toxicity and hypothyroidism, and I’m at risk for blood clots. The side effects of these illnesses prompt post-traumatic stress disorder episodes in which I believe I may be relapsing. Heck, I even am convinced I’m relapsing in the week before getting my period because of how similar the symptoms are.
When I experience intense moments and feelings of relapse, I email my oncologist and make an appointment with my local general practitioner to run tests to make certain that I am indeed not relapsing. I truly believe that if I am going to preach advocacy and early detection, I must practice it as well. It’s best to be seen and checked than to go months with not knowing that the cancer is back or that there is another serious illness to be treated.
While this life of anxiety and fear of relapse is not ideal, I’m grateful to be hyper-aware of my body and for the relationship that this experience has provided me with my body. Feel it on the first, check yourself every month, and keep that inner dialogue with yourself going to make sure you are OK! It’s the least we can do for ourselves and our health each month to make sure that we have the chance at a long life of happiness. We deserve it!
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.