Worrying has gotten the best of me

This entry was written by Jackie Roth, PhD student at Thomas Jefferson University. Jackie was diagnosed with Stage III A breast cancer at the age of 28. Every other Friday, throughout the entire year of 2011, Jackie will share a blog entry about her breast cancer experience. This year-long blog series is in honor of LBBC’s 20th anniversary.

To read Jackie’s previous entries, enter “ Jackie Roth” in the search box on this site.

Thinking about it now, I can’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent in a doctor’s office over the last year.  There were weeks when I had at least one appointment per day, if not more. And not to mention the countless hours in the waiting rooms too.  But, as I have just finished my radiation treatments, I am spending less and less time in the doctor’s office.

At first I didn’t notice the lack of doctor’s appointments affecting me because I have been completely consumed with writing my thesis.  I’ve been writing non-stop ever since my radiation treatments finished, trying to get my last seven years of research into one document.   I am definitely happy that my thesis is finished, all 250 pages, and now I have more time to focus on my life outside of school.

Jackie is happy to announce that she has completed her thesis! Congratulations, Jackie!

Recently, many of my doctors have said to me “See you in three, or even six, months.”  I even heard from one doctor, “See you in a year.”  I was completely shocked.  It just didn’t feel right knowing that I would not go back for months.  What if something goes wrong in that time? I know that I can always call in, but it is not the same reassurance as having a set appointment each week.

Adjusting to this “new normal,” or really my “normal before I was diagnosed,” has been the hardest part for me.  I was much more comfortable going to the doctor each week, having a plan in place.  I don’t really like the new plan of “we will image you twice a year and just see what happens.”  I can’t handle the idea of just sitting and waiting.  It is hard enough to wait now, let alone waiting for the results after I actually get a scan.  I am already worried about every little pain that I feel.  I can’t help but think it is the cancer coming back in a different place.  I know I am driving my husband crazy with all of the worrying.  One day I feel pain in my throat, the next day it is my hands, followed by my bones. My doctors have appeased me by sending me to specialists and running tests to calm my fears.  But I still worry.  Does the worrying every stop?  Does it stop when you make it to the 5-year-mark?

The transition of less doctor’s appointments is also difficult for me because I am physically moving jobs.  I will be graduating from school in three weeks and moving onto a new job located across town.  Currently, I spend my days across the street from my doctor and if I ever need them, I know they are right outside, just a minute or two away. 

In the back of my mind I know that most of this is out of my control.  I can’t control the fact that I have to move across town.  I can’t control the fact that now when I fill out forms at a new doctor’s office, I have to mark the “cancer” box when there is a check list of your past illnesses.  I can’t control if the cancer will come back.  Hopefully soon I will be able to control how much I worry because it is going to be a long and tiring five years if I continue worrying at this pace.

Can you give Jackie any suggestions on how she can curb her fear of recurrence? How did you put “worrying” aside and rely on your faith to get you through your recovery? Comment here or on our Facebook page.

If you, like Jackie, have recently completed breast cancer treatment and find yourself worried about the “cancer coming back,” you may want to order LBBC’s Guide to Understanding Fear of Recurrence.

5 thoughts on “Worrying has gotten the best of me

  1. Dear Jackie,
    it never gets any easier, but one does learn to live with the fear and worry.
    I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and had a terrible time during treatments. I couldn’t imagine at the time how I would live my everyday life with this burden. But I have learned to do so. One day at a time.
    Hugs and good wishes to you,
    Liliana

  2. I too want to know how to stop worrying. It is hard to do, esp when friends and family consider your treatment over, the cancer gone, move on and stop talking/thinking about it. So you shut up about it because of the criticism but you never stop thinking about it, which makes it even more stressful because you feel so alone.

  3. Your theme this week, Jackie, really made me consider a part of your treatment that I would never have thought of – the space between treatment. As you spend less time with the medical professionals and more time on your own, I’m sure that second-guessing yourself is inevitable. However, reading the space between the lines should give you confidence. The doctors have faith in you and your health, and so should you.

    The professionals may be leaving you more and more alone, but as you already know, you will never be alone. You have a team of super heroes ready at the flash of the Bat Signal to come to your aid, even if it’s just to calm nerves. They are inspired by you, and so am I. Don’t forget to utilize their super powers to help defend against the worrying.

    So rather than think of being left alone by doctors, think of it as a reallocation of skills. You needed their professional skills to get you through the treatments. Now you need a different skill set from a different group of people to get you through the space between. And we all look forward to the day that the space between becomes permanent.

  4. I do know what you mean. In my case, when I don’t think about cancer ‘enough’, I sometimes feel guilty – as if my lack of thinking about it will surely be the cause of it coming back. I like what John said about a ‘different skill set’.

    I appreciate your honesty. When we speak openly, we’re in this together!

  5. Check out Hester Hill Schnipper’s book “After Breast Cancer”. It was written just for those in your situation…treatment complete, and now what? It helped me.

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