Cancer Paranoia, or Death Comes Knocking.

When I first created my blog, I named it Dogwood Girl. No real reason, except that the dogwood is my favorite tree and I like it. If I had known what the next week would be like, I would have named it “Cancer Girl,” although I’m sure that is taken, and it sounds entirely too American Splendor comic-booky. Little did I know that before I would ever write my first post, I would be stricken with cancer paranoia.

Cancer paranoia is a common malady in my family, where the victim convinces his or herself that he or she is in fact stricken with cancer, although usually presenting with little or no common symptoms of cancer. In my case, it was simply that I went to see Garden State with my sister, proceeded to gorge myself on a large popcorn before making it through the previews, and then had a pesky kernel lodged in my throat for the whole movie. I got home and went upstairs to floss and see if I could find the offending kernel, looked into my mouth saying, “aaaaaaahhhhh” and instead of the kernel, see a huge, red mass in the back of my throat. It is, of course, cancer.

How could it be anything else? I quit smoking three years ago. I eat all the good antioxidant veggies. I am fairly newly married and have a 12-month old, beautiful baby boy. I am happier in my life than I have EVER been before. Why wouldn’t Death come knocking at my door at this particular moment in time? He preys on the unthinking, undeserved, and the happy, right? I would be the perfect victim.

So, I read on the Internet about cancer. Oral cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, tonsil cancer. It has a 50% survival rate. It usually shows up in smokers and drinkers (greeeaaat . . .), although rare to have before 50 and if you are female. But I would be the exception, wouldn’t I? Except that my sister-in-law has oral cancer and is the exception; never drank and never smoked, diagnosed in her early 20s. Can we really have more than one exception? It seemed just strange enough to be real.

I became worried that I might have cancer. I went to bed worrying and woke up worrying and then when my husband came downstairs, I told him that I was worried, then stuck my tongue out for him to inspect my tumor. My ever-so-sensible husband informs me that if I am worried, I should call the dentist and make an appointment for first thing Monday morning. It is of course Sunday, so I can’t make the appointment until Monday. Except that on Monday, I went to visit my parents and so kind of put it out of my mind (what a nice way of saying DENIAL) until I came back home on Thursday. I am still worried, but now don’t have the distraction of my parents, so I finally break down and call the dentist. They can see me at 11:00 am the following Monday (yesterday).

This, of course, means that I worry myself all the way through the weekend. I worry myself through working the parent’s association table at the neighborhood festival. I worry myself through my beloved Georgia Bulldogs’ lackluster win over Marshall. I have a few beers over the game, and then forget to worry for a while. I take The Boy home for bed and put him down, and then try to drown my cancer worries with a bottle of wine. This of course doesn’t work, because sooner or later you finish the wine and have to go to bed by yourself, because you and your husband agreed that he needed a night out with the guys and so you are at home alone, even though you think you might have cancer, the bastard.

I pray to God that if I don’t have cancer, I will start an exercise regimen, go on a diet, watch less TV, make love to my husband more, finish all the kazillion unfinished projects I have around the house. I will cherish every moment of every day.

I think about what I will do if I do have cancer: How will my husband raise a baby by himself? I figure that he will be okay, because he survived the first 28 years of his life without me.

But not The Boy. The Boy has known nothing but me since birth. I am his world. But even if they gave me 2-3 years, The Boy WOULD NOT REMEMBER ME. He might be four when I pass away, and he WOULD NOT REMEMBER. To The Boy, I would be a stranger in a bunch of photographs, a curly-headed lunatic who created this totally ridiculous scrapbook for him, a creative endeavor containing sentimentality totally out of character for me. But The Boy wouldn’t know that – In his mind, his mother would be a romanticized, creative, artistic saint. The Boy would not know me as I really am at all. The Boy would never know that I am a bigger whack-job than any character on Six Feet Under.

That is the thing, isn’t it? Here I am scared to death that I have cancer and I realize that I am not even that scared of the pain and death part of it. I know that The Boy will be taken care of after I am gone. I am just so selfish in my cancer paranoia that all I can think of is that The Boy WON’T REMEMBER ME. And that breaks my (possibly cancer-ridden?) heart.

Did I mention that I was suffering from Cancer Paranoia? That’s right, not the real cancer, just the fear of cancer. Yesterday, I received an unconvincing “don’t worry about it” from the Dentist. He also told me that I should “get a second opinion from my doctor.” If I shouldn’t worry about it, why should I get a second opinion?

I got a second opinion today from my Doctor, to whom I made it very clear that I was VERY SCARED THAT I HAD CANCER. I didn’t want there to be any confusion about why I was there.

She told me that everything looked fine, except that I have an enlarged tonsil. That’s right, my tumor is actually my inflamed tonsil.

Now, what all did I promise God I would do if I didn’t have cancer? Shit.


  5 comments for “Cancer Paranoia, or Death Comes Knocking.

  1. richard proctor
    February 28, 2007 at 9:47 am

    i know EXACTLY how you feel with the “cancer paranoia” its just so unbelivably horrible thinking that your going to die. I keep of feeling all these lumps which i know are just inflammed lymph glands…but then i feel tightness in one of my sides i think…

    The lumps are cancerous…they’ve metasisiased and spread to my stomach..SHIT!!!

    well i keep going to the doctor and saying that i think that if i had a MRI or something to that accord my mind would be put to rest..but he keeps telling me not to worry!!!


    what harm could having a scan do! if i do have a cancer it gets identified and treated…if i dont then i can finally stop worrying!

  2. Dogwood Girl
    February 28, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Hope everything is okay, Richard. Get it checked out – be pushy with your doctor.

    By the way, how on earth did you find Dogwood Girl, and how did you come across my first post ever! Very strange!

  3. Anonymous
    May 27, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    I am sooo with you on that “Cancer paranoia”. I’ve been suffering from it since age 8 (had a wart on my foot; was convinced it was cancer).
    There’s no actual cancer in my family, but there is a strong tendency to hypochondria.
    I’ve had colon cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, oral cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, and throat cancer… not to mention hepatitis-C, MS, and AIDS.
    Not literally, of course… I’m healthy as a horse!
    But I’ve ‘lived through’ the trauma of each of these things, because I am or have been convinced- at various times- that I have them all. Sometimes simultaneously.

    This is no way to live. 🙁

  4. christy
    September 25, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Glad to hear i am not the only one….i am currently thinking of 3 possible ones i could be suffering from…

    I am actually going to see someone about my “unfounded thoughts” as my doctor has put it… hope it helps, it can sometimes nearly take over your life.

    Doesn’t help either that someone i know (not well) has just been diagnosed with an inoperable liver cancer 🙁

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