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Dealing With Checkup Anxiety

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 04:45 PM

With checkup time approaching, the nightmares have begun to roll in.
 
Because I live 90 miles from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, I bundle as many appointments together as possible, spending the night either with my sister or a friend, alternating so that I don’t wear out my welcome.
 
Within the last six months, two friends who had suffered from leukemia — like me — died.
 
One of them was in remission, so it was not leukemia that killed her. Rather, she had a squamous cell cancer on her tongue. It was removed, but the cancer sill spread throughout her body, leading to her death last month.
 
This friend had called me before the surgery on her tongue because she knew I had undergone a similar procedure. But the area that I had removed was simply abnormal and possibly precancerous, discovered by chance during a dental extraction. While it caused me a good deal of worry, it was actually a stroke of luck.
 
My appointments this week include a checkup with the dermatologist who monitors me for squamous cell cancers that I get on my skin, a side effect of my bone marrow transplant and of my long-term use of prednisone.
 
She has removed more of these than I count. But being “in situ” — on the skin — they do not spread like the tumors that occur internally.
 
Unfortunately, my subconscious does not make that distinction.
 
In my dream last night, my doctor excised two large cancerous areas from my arm, and as she worked, she commented, “I wish I could say I was not worried about these.”
 
My nightmares used to be just about relapse. But now they include other diseases that can be results of leukemia or its treatments, such as the squamous cell cancer that killed my friend.
 
I am not outwardly worried about any of my appointments. First, I will see a cornea specialist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. He monitors me for the slight graft vs. host disease that I have in my eyes. Restasis drops keep it under control.
 
I also assume that I will get a good report when I visit my hematologist. Still, my breath tends to catch for a second as I wait for your blood counts to come up on the computer screen.
 
Finally, my skin is clear, and I’m sure my dermatologist will be pleased.
 
I have also scheduled an appointment with my social worker. It helps to talk to a professional when you are as deeply affected as I was by my friends’ deaths.
 
These events evoke all sorts of emotions, including “survivor guilt,” that are best discussed with someone who understands cancer survivorship.
 
Maybe then the nightmares will stop.
 
 

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Ronni-Gordon
Because I live 90 miles from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, I bundle as many appointments together as possible, spending the night either with my sister or a friend, alternating so that I don’t wear out my welcome.
cancer, leukemia, Restasis, survivor guilt
452
2014-45-09
Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 04:45 PM
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