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Struggling with Intrusive and Obsessive Fears About Cancer for Months!

fritoeef

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Hello!

I have reached a point where even posting here feels like I am jinxing myself and going to cause me to fall ill (if I am not already..). Honestly even just writing this I think will be cathartic, so for what it's worth, getting this off my chest my help, and maybe someone else will relate. I apologize for how unnecessarily long this is, I could write my dissertation on this subject!!!! I do feel quite self absorbed for writing all this, but I know a lot of other people are experiencing the same thing.

Wondering if anyone has overcome this? Or maybe there is reassurance out there and I can quell these thoughts for even a moment (yes I should go to the doctor I know).

It started in July, where I noticed bruising ALL over my legs! Mind you, I have lost a lot of weight over the last two years due to emetophobia and generalized anxiety, and due to the pandemic and personal issues and stressors my anxiety caused further weight loss as I could not eat. I pin this bruising down to a deficiency, or something. Anyways, I had minor health anxiety through the pandemic, had my bloods done about three times, all normal, nothing standing out, inflammatory markers fine, wbc fine. Literally nothing (I thought I had ovarian, colon, and brain cancer, and most recently and ongoing, lymphoma). Had ultrasound was fine. Was referred for a colonoscopy but managed to get over that anxiety and did not go. I was fine, and I carried on with my life!

Then I noticed my back itched in one spot, and I have had a constant pain in one part of my back that started two years ago, that honestly felt like a crazy knot, and thats what I pinned it down to. Then my armpit started throbbing a lot, and my brain thought I had lymphoma. I did have some night sweats, and it seems I do sweat a lot in my sleep. But one night I was drenched an had to change my clothes, but I think it was due to a heatwave and I was sleeping with too many covers and no AC. This was early this year. Didn't think much of it, my bloods were normal. All is fine, no spiraling, just a little health anxiety.

Now... back to July and the crazy bruising. My back pain was increasing, and now hurt every time I breathed. Knot felt huge, back itched, and bruises everywhere. It was bizarre. I realized the bruising was bad, so I went to urgent care. Doctor injected my back knot, which he could very easily feel, with lidocaine and a steroid and took my bloods. I was a little scared, but otherwise fine. Then get the results, perfect, other than my urea nitrogen being a smidge low and blood sugars through the roof. Doctor calls, says I am fine, but my blood sugars are high and to make a follow up appt with my gp and they ran an A1C test to be sure I don't have diabetes (I don't). I do that, and have a video call with a NP I have never met before (I was on state insurance due to unemployment from the pandemic) and tell her what I am experiencing. I was literally fine and not spiraling until that appointment. The bruising did persist (platelets and clotting factors, all perfect!). She said this is really concerning and to come in ASAP to run more tests, and she may need to refer me to a specialist (hematologist). This set off the worst spiral of my life. I could not eat, function do anything until that appointment three weeks later. I was in an awful state. Then I start poking and prodding my neck, and discovered a lymphnode just hanging out. I could have sworn I felt it before, but I was not hyper aware of my health in the same way and never bothered to care, or maybe I thought it was normal. I don't know. Well, fixated on this lymphnode I keep prodding it and feeling it. I'd say its about 1.5 centimeters, and there is slight puffiness in that part of my neck when I look at it. But it does not stand out the way I have seen in photos. It does move around as well, but it is definitely larger than I think it should be.

I have my follow up appointment, and preface it by saying my father died from esophageal cancer and I have a major fear of cancer and have health anxiety. I think this changed her attitude towards me, and perhaps her sense of urgency. She feels all the usual areas for lymphnodes, and does not comment on the slightly larger one on my neck, so I assume its fine (I was too scared to mention it), and feels everywhere else and said I have no swollen nodes anywhere else either. Takes my bloods again to be sure and said to come back in a month and prescribes anti anxiety medicine (which I never took as I am scared it will make me throw up).

My results came back a week later, and I discover my WBC dropped!!! .2 below the normal range this time (I have never seen that!) and I discover a huge drop from three weeks ago in my neutrophils (still normal range though). This just about did me in, but everything else was normal!!!! Including platelets, so I assumed the bruising was not cancer related, but now I can't shake the feeling that I still have cancer. I anticipated the doctor would call if something was wrong, which she didnt, and then she posted on the health portal that they were normal. This did not help. I literally could not function for that month I waited and had started a new job. I started fixing on this lymphnode, and discovered some other small ones in my neck, and then a huge bump that I assume is a muscle (but I am convinced is a lymphnode because it is assymetrical from the other side). Nothing has grown in size though, which I know is a sign of something sinister. My larger lymphnode definitely seems to fluctuate during the day, and feels smaller and softer sometimes.

I started taking vitamin b12 because I am almost 100% plant based and barely eat ( I did realize I was taking too much at once, and then read that can cause cancer *eye roll* because I should not be googling anything!) and vitamin c, and hoped it would help. My bruising and its frequency did improve overall, but then I had some randomly huge ones out of nowhere that would not allow me to chill, and I had never seen such massive bruises on my body ever in my life which was very scary. Anyways, I had my follow up appt, nurse said I am fine, and focused on my mental health as the culprit. I was still too scared to mention this lump in neck and my slightly enlarged lymphnode, so I am still hung up on those, even though they have not grown since august so I must be fine. She said .2 below normal is still considered normal because there is a bell curve when looking at these ranges, and I really think I put my immune system through the ringer with the stress I caused myself and thats why it dropped so much in three weeks. She said neutrophils fight off bacteria, so maybe I had a little infection somewhere, who knows. I left that appointment feeling much more relaxed and tried to get on with my life. I could function better but still felt like something is wrong. My back pain got really bad though, and it reallllly hurt to breathe now, which every time I took a breath began to cause further anxiety. But, one day, it just disappeared! I woke up the day after a particularly painful few days, and it was GONE. I don't understand, and it's stayed about the same since! I think that was also stress and anxiety related.

But, here I am right now spiraling about my unchanged neck lumps and lymphnodes, and too scared to see the doctor for reassurance as I am just convinced (but also know that its not true) that something is seriously wrong with me. I don't feel right in myself, and can't shake this anxiety, and I wake up every morning checking my neck first thing without even thinking. I am also scared of the left side of my body now, and my danger signals go off when I think about it or see it. It is unbelievable how our minds work sometimes, and I also can't calm myself down knowing that cancer is a reality we all face in some capacity, and it is just a fact of life, so how is therapy going to help me if it doesn't change my reality (that I cannot predict and know nothing about as well). But I am TERRIFIED of getting it. I just have this thought in the back of my mind at all hours of the day that something is wrong. I think I have started dreaming that I have night sweats every night now, and I dream I check to see if I have them and state to myself that I do or don't. This is debilitating, but I am definitely functioning better than I was in July/August. It is just that the initial shock and fear of the video call I had with the nurse sent me into a spiral and cycle that I have not quite escaped yet. But, I know I am fine. I just know it, but I am fighting against reality and that little voice in my head that is torturing me with these obsessions and fears. As of now, I plan to work up the courage to have a physical and chat with my new doctor, and hopefully she can put this to bed once and for all. I am exhausted.

If you made it this far, thank you for your time. If you relate at all, I am so so sorry and I believe we can get through this!!!! Take care and I wish you all the best!
 
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Jennifer

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What jumps out at me is the neck lumps. Lumps and bumps are horrid for HA, I know that first hand.

Through a horrible experience with my younger son and a string of enlarged lymph nodes on the side of his neck, the thing that finally stopped my paralyzing fear was his dr told me that lymph nodes scar and can remain enlarged for ever.

My son was about 3 or so at the time, he's 28 and if he turns his head a certain way I can still see them.

Yours may be enlarged (its normal for them to do that) and they may go down, but they may not ever and that is ok too. My son is proof.
 

MATD

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Your health anxiety is way over the top. There are many of us that are like this. Aside from your health issues, have you taken any steps to deal with the anxiety? There are options available. One thing to remember, Anxiety can cause extreme muscle tension as well as other physical symptoms. One thing you did’t seem to take into consideration is your weight loss and not eating. It stands to reason these two symptoms could have a direct effect on your blood work you’ve gotten done. I’m recommending a web site you can go to for a load of information on anxiety and how it can affect us: anxietycentre.com. There is a fee to join the site, monthly or yearly. Well worth the money. A year is around $50.
 

Phillies Phan

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Your health anxiety is way over the top. There are many of us that are like this. Aside from your health issues, have you taken any steps to deal with the anxiety? There are options available. One thing to remember, Anxiety can cause extreme muscle tension as well as other physical symptoms. One thing you did’t seem to take into consideration is your weight loss and not eating. It stands to reason these two symptoms could have a direct effect on your blood work you’ve gotten done. I’m recommending a web site you can go to for a load of information on anxiety and how it can affect us: anxietycentre.com. There is a fee to join the site, monthly or yearly. Well worth the money. A year is around $50.
Totally agree. Superb site. Best $50 you’ll ever spend. Even the free material is wonderfully helpful. Any time you are possessed to google, put the word anxiety and the name Folk in with the key words. Folk is the site creator.
 

fritoeef

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What jumps out at me is the neck lumps. Lumps and bumps are horrid for HA, I know that first hand.

Through a horrible experience with my younger son and a string of enlarged lymph nodes on the side of his neck, the thing that finally stopped my paralyzing fear was his dr told me that lymph nodes scar and can remain enlarged for ever.

My son was about 3 or so at the time, he's 28 and if he turns his head a certain way I can still see them.

Yours may be enlarged (its normal for them to do that) and they may go down, but they may not ever and that is ok too. My son is proof.
Thank you so much for this note, I really appreciate it and it is very comforting to read this. I am so sorry you went through this experience with your son, and as a parent having to face the doctor for your child during such a scary time must have been so difficult. I cannot even face the doctor for myself to put this to rest once and for all! I think I have the same thing, as I am convinced I have vague memories of noticing this lymphnode years ago but it did not worry me then, and it only became more prominent once I lost a significant amount of weight and my neck became thinner. It just seems when you read things online its more rare for a permanently slightly enlarged lymphnode to be normal than it is for it to be sinister, and that is what I struggle the most seeing (and must stop googling!). Thank you again!
 

Jennifer

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Yes please stop googling.

Apparently lymph nodes are strange little things, they can swell for little to no reason (well, a reason but not obvious to us) and they have a very poor drainage system. So, even if it is eventually going to go down it can take way, way longer then it took to swell.

In the height of my horrid fear over my son's neck, I was so fixated on his neck I dressed him in high collars so I wouldn't stare during the day, then when he was asleep I took a flashlight into his room to look. Awful.

God bless that pediatrician, as soon as we walked in, he examined my son, turned and looked me square in the eyes and said, "No. It isn't what you are thinking" then went on to tell me how they may never go away and may visible forever.

I could have cried.

Now, my coworker's son had lymphoma, she described the lump in his neck as "the size of a fist"

That is a stark difference.

You are ok, yours may not even be swollen, if your neck is thin you may be seeing nodes that are 100% the size they should be. They are little lumps and we should be grateful for them, they have a big job and they protect us. :)
 
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