Health anxiety after cancer diagnosis 3 yrs ago

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Hello all

I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2021 at the age of 54.  I was lucky in so far as the cancer which was discovered incidentally was caught early at stage pTa and graded low risk (G1).  I had the standard treatment, recovered well and have so far been clear although bladder cancer has a particularly high rate of reoccurrence.  Since my treatment and initial shock (i was not demographically speaking a typical candidate for bladder cancer), I have suffered health or rather specifically cancer anxiety.  I am educated, rational and logical but I still have occasional episodes of crippling anxiety.

For example, i was diagnosed with a small hiatus hernia last autumn and have recently convinced myself that the mild and occasional accompanying symptoms will result in my developing Barretts oesophagus and then oesophageal cancer!  This isnt quite as random and crazy as it may sound as my mum - a slim fit non-smoker (like me) died of oesophageal cancer in 1996 in her late 60s.  

i also have issues or rather can be triggered by what seems like constant media reporting on cancer and the number of tv ads about cancer which can suddenly turn an enjoyable evening into something else.

i just wondered if others have the same anxiety - I am sure I am not alone - and what coping mechanisms they employ?  About the only thing that works for me is trying to accept that I wont make old bones and get on with it …. Not ideal Slight frown

Thanks for reading this.

Blue

  • Hi  navigating the post treatment 'life journey' is challenging and at times it can be hard to distinguish between what could be cancer related and what is normal life stuff.

    I have been on my incurable blood cancer journey for over 24 years..... My story is rather complicated See my story as I had to go through a lot of treatments but I am coming up to 8 years out from my last treatment and I am turning 68 in Nov and doing great.

    Acceptance and the tools to move forward need to be learned and some external help can be the way forward. 

    Talking with others navigating the same journey can help so you may want to join and have a look round the various posts in our Life after Cancer Group

    You may find it helpful to make a cuppa and have a look at this great paper After Treatment Finishes - Then What? by Dr Peter Harvey as it highlights the post treatment milestones.

    Talking to people face to face can be very helpful so do check to see if you have any Local Macmillan Support in your area.

    Do also check for a local Maggie's Centre as I found these folks to be an amazing help.

    Macmillan have also teamed up with BUPA to offer up to 6 free counselling sessions for people struggling emotionally because they are living with cancer. Clicking on the link will give you more information about this.

    Always around to chat.

    Mike (Thehighlander)

    It always seems impossible until its done - Nelson Mandela

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  • Mike, thanks so much for the references which I will certainly look up.  It is incredibly positive to hear of your personal story too.

    Blue

  • Hi  

    Mike’s recommendations are good ones-I go back and read Dr Harvey’s paper on a regular basis myself.

    I was diagnosed with anxiety (not health related) at the same time as I had my unexpected (to me) cancer diagnosis. I went to the gp with post menopausal bleeding and mentioned my (unconnected) anxiety at the same time and was put on medication prior to my gynae referral coming through. Strangely I wasn’t in any way anxious about cancer, though I really should have been! But lack of anxiety meant I didn’t worry or stress. 

    I was confident throughout treatment that I would be fine, but my world was shaken when I had a recurrence shortly after a NED result. Suddenly I felt very vulnerable and I found it quite hard to control my anxiety through the next steps for me. I did deep breathing, mindfulness, distraction techniques, but because I knew my recurrence would be difficult to treat, I found it hard sometimes. But I still slept soundly the night before my surgery, despite being given only a 30% chance of success. I convinced myself I would be in that 30% and it turned out to be the case. (my story is in my profile). 

    More than 4 years after that recurrence was diagnosed, I still have some issues-I have been diagnosed with ptsd (I did have the excellent BUPA counselling Mike refers to), I have almost uncontrollable anxiety at the thought of any scan, and I practically have to be dragged, always sobbing, to any form of scanning machine. Last year I became quite ill and convinced myself my cancer was back. It took 2 paramedics and my partner to persuade me to get in the ambulance, and a long time sat in a wheelchair in tears at the hospital before I could be persuaded to have a CT scan. But it wasn’t cancer at all-all that drama for something else which could be sorted out! I learned an important lesson that day. 

    Our minds are very powerful things-I too consider myself educated, rational and logical, but I had let anxiety take over. I don’t think I will ever be free of a fear of recurrence, but I keep it in a box in my head which I don’t open. For years I’ve had a picture in my head of a filing cabinet, and I visualise myself putting each particular anxiety into it in a separate drawer and locking it shut. If I feel fine, I am fine is my outlook now. 

    I live my life now on the basis that every day is a blessing-I give thanks every morning for a new day, and thanks before I sleep for having experienced it. I still do my deep breathing to relax and cancer thoughts don’t fill my head. I’m not affected by the tv adverts for example. We probably have all in some way been touched by cancer, either personally or with family and it’s not something I would even give a capital letter to! 

    I don’t want my life to be filled with worry, I want it to be as good as it can possibly be, given the limitations I have since my surgery. And really it is! I plan for future things to have something to look forward to-holidays, visiting friends or my family. I try to always look for silver linings and something good in every day. Now I have the joy of finding out that my first grandchild will be born in the summer and that’s a huge motivator to keep going! A disease I had no control over is not going to control my life, because I don’t intend to let it.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, but these tools to deal with it can be learned. I haven’t been dealing with cancer nearly as long as Mike, so I listen to his wise advice, which has been so very helpful to me personally. I hope you too can find a way through because post cancer life is a challenging place which others can find difficult to understand. All the best.

    Sarah xx


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  • Hi Sarah.  Thank you very much. I am awed. Both yourself and Mike (above) have been through so much more than me.  Your advice is sage and I appreciate you sharing your outlook and advice.  Blue.

  • In my long experience as a cancer patient, cancer and anxiety go hand in hand. I've had multiple relapses and it doesn't get easier to handle!  Last year, I managed to get 6 free counselling sessions from Macmillan/BUPA. These really helped, so much so that I decided to keep the counselling going. I get a type of CBT which is problem-focused and really helpful for managing anxiety. Also, if you are near a Maggie's  centre, they offer free support groups. 

  • Hi.  Sorry, hit send inadvertently!  Was going to say … others have also mentioned the counselling so defo something to consider.  Best, Blue.

    ps. Apologies if same reply has ended up in a totally different thread.