I didn’t coin this term, but it is the anxiety that ramps up prior to the next CT scan to check on the progression, or not, of cancer. Mine is scheduled for Monday; today is Saturday, so the anxiety is already there no matter how I try to minimize it. There is the hope that the tumors have reduced in size since the last scan; and the fear that they didn’t. If they did, then all is well, but if they didn’t, then what’s next? I admit to not only anxiety, but a little depression, too. It’s difficult to keep a positive focus all the time, and I occasionally find myself almost reduced to tears. And the anger; can’t forget the anger. Those emotions are all kin to each other and feed off each other and make each other worse. And I know it’s a downward spiral and hard to stop once it gains momentum, so I can’t let it gain momentum and usually don’t.
And on a related note, the more I read in journals and from other lung cancer patients on support sites, the more I feel overloaded. My brain races a mile a minute at times, and I find it hard to slow it down. So many options that depend on so many different things. Since I am the one responsible for my care then I must be the one to be aware of what’s available. I trust my Oncologist and my treatment team, but I still need to be able to have an intelligent discussion about available treatments, clinical trials, and the latest new treatment coming up on the horizon. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I wonder if my parents’ generation was right in always deferring to the doctor. And they didn’t have access to all the research out there on the internet. Maybe ignorance really is bliss. But as soon as I have that thought, I get rid of it. The information is out there, and I should be able to read it and understand it and be able to discuss it with my team members. So I just keep on going the best I can and trust that all will be well.
I have been feeling rage and despair for the last couple of days along with a sense of urgency to make this Xmas special because there’s a chance it could be my last one in this life. My emotions are still riding a roller coaster from the depths of blackness to feeling as if I will beat this. I can actually go for hours at a time without even thinking about cancer, and there are times when that’s all I think about. I don’t like tearing up for no reason or because of some sappy TV commercial. Then again, it could just be the time of year. But I still feel as if my diagnosis is totally unfair – I still have a lot of living to do.
Intellectually, I know that what I’m feeling is normal and it’s okay to feel it. I sometimes think I will be one of the small percentage that survive; and other times I’m sure I won’t be. The odds are against me, but then I have to remember all the times I have fallen into that small percentage of people to have some side effect, or something. For example; I tried the contact lenses that were supposed to reshape the cornea. I wore them every night, and within a week, I no longer had to wear contacts or glasses during the day. That was a liberating feeling! But within a few months, my eyes began to revert back to the way they were even though I continued to wear the special contacts overnight. My eye doctor said, no problem, we’ll just change the Rx and you’ll be fine. Only a very tiny percentage of patients have it happen again. Well, guess who was in that tiny percentage? And there have been other instances like that.
Here’s hoping that my being in that small percentage will work for me this time instead of against me.
I saw a segment on TV this morning that started my train of thought going. The segment was on the fact that those who express their anger live, on average, two years longer than those who bottle it up. I know that bottling up anger is bad for your heart, and for your health in general. I also know that years of suppressing anger can lead to a person exploding – i.e. ‘going postal’ as it was termed. That explosion can be catastrophic for not only the person exploding, but also those around him/her.
I was taught from an early age that expressing anger is not okay. We, as women, are supposed to just go along with whatever happens because it isn’t ‘ladylike’ to get angry. So we bottle up the anger and suddenly, sooner or later, we find ourselves depressed, or unhappy with our lives, or suicidal. Men are taught that expressing anger isn’t okay because expressing any emotion is not ‘manly’. So men bottle up their anger until they also find themselves unhappy, depressed, or attacking their loved ones or strangers.
I wonder if this is why we have mass shootings. Do these people just explode from bottling everything up for so long? Have they been bullied? Do they not know how to express what they are feeling? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that we all should learn how to express our feelings in a constructive way.
I don’t get angry very often; I’m an easygoing kind of person. But when I do get angry, I tend to spew words all over the place. I don’t yell; I don’t even raise my voice. The words are preceeded by a deadly calm quiet. My ex and my kids never knew when I would reach my limit, and it happens maybe once in ten or so years, so they never learned the warning signs.
Other people I know tend to rant and rave and jump up and down for hours when they get angry. And some people I know don’t express it at all. We need to teach our kids that expressing emotions is healthy and necessary, because if we don’t tell people how we feel, how are they supposed to know? I’m not advocating that we begin emoting all over the place, but to learn what and when it is appropriate to express ourselves and when it is necessary to just walk away.