Is it Paranoia or Is it Real?
Updated: Oct 13, 2018
If you are in the midst of Cancer treatment or after treatment there are going to be times when aches and pains arise in areas of your body that will immediately give you the thought, ‘Is that Cancer growing?’ or ‘Has my Cancer spread’ or ‘Has my Cancer come back?’ these thoughts will be accompanied by a multitude of ‘What if’ thoughts and acute anxiety. What does not help the situation is the often disregard of these complaints to the GP or Oncology team, you will see a look flicker in their eyes, a ‘here we go again’ look, as you are probably the tenth person that day that has brought up a suspicion of Cancer spreading, or returning, in their office. What does this mean for you? It can mean you will be written off as paranoid.
The unfortunate thing about having Cancer is that all the treatment can cause aches and pains in all sorts of areas of our bodies. And if you were diagnosed at a Stage 2 or Stage 3 you may be concerned that it has metastasised into other areas. An ache in your back, your big toe, your hand, your chest for instance, let alone a headache and the fear of brain cancer, can have you hot footing it to your Oncologists office in no time. But are you being Paranoid? I don’t think so.
Oncologists are pretty poor at explaining the side effects of Cancer treatment, they may point out you will lose your hair and be sick but they don’t tend to be more specific about what type of documented aches and pains accompany your particular treatment. If you have had more details like these given to you by your Oncologist be ever so grateful, as I know from my many clients and my own experience that these are rare Oncologists!
Here is what you can do. If you are in and out of the hospital like a yo-yo with your chemo or radiotherapy plan, see your Doctor. If you are post treatment, book an appointment asap. Don’t for one moment hesitate and wonder if you are wasting your time. You are not. Your Doctor is being paid to hear your concerns not just give you a treatment plan. The reason I champion this approach is because I made the biggest cock up in my life by not doing this myself.
When I felt strange pains rather like PMT, I thought it must be the peri-menopause kicking in and at 41, that was a rational thought, or so I thought. I let the strange pains get worse, so worse I couldn’t even hug my partner without wincing. I decided that I had better go see the GP about it, though I had only had 3 GP visits in ten years! The GP organised a mammogram and ultrasound on the basis that my Mother had had breast cancer. I had both scans and the Radiologist said there was nothing to see on the scans but to come back in 6 months’ time for a check-up. Within a week the pains had gone, I thought that they were probably psychosomatic, brought on by sub conscious stress of having the ‘strange pains’ in the first place and now I had the ‘all clear’ they had gone. I went about my life for the next 5 months.
Then the pains returned. I really thought this must be the peri-menopause. I went back finally for the 6 month check-up and mammogram and ultrasound again and that is when my life changed. I was rushed upstairs to the Consultant with the ultrasound scan and report in my hand. He took one look at the scan and said, “This doesn’t look good.” And on I went to the biopsy and confirmed breast cancer at stage 3! Stage 3! That meant in the preceding 6 months I must have gone from a ‘missed’ Stage 1 to a more life-threatening Stage 3! All because I didn’t take my body seriously and didn’t seek out a second opinion. It wasn’t explained to me that I had ‘dense breasts’ after the first scan, which is why both mammograms did NOT pick up the 3cm tumour, only the 2nd ultrasound did. If this had been explained to me by the radiologist in the first meeting I would have researched ‘dense breasts’ and gone for a 2nd opinion. After all an ultrasound is only as good as the person conducting it.
I want no one to make the same mistake I did. If you have a pain and it hasn’t been explained to you that you should expect such a pain, you are fully entitled to walk into the Oncologist office and ask if the pain is normal, as part of your treatment. Do not hesitate for a second. If the Oncologist rolls their eyes do not move from the chair until they have explained why you need not be paranoid. On the other hand, if they seem mystified as to why you have the pain, make it very clear you will be documenting the meeting and emailing them with what was discussed and that you want a second opinion from an expert in the area that looks after the part of the body you are experiencing pain in. Don’t think this is over the top. Oncologists are fallible, and they do make mistakes, which do lead to people dying. This is a life or death situation. Stating that you are documenting the meeting will make it very clear that you are not to be messed about or fobbed off. Your life is worth it, don’t you think?
I hope that this helps you see why you are within your rights to prioritise your health and your life. I also hope that if any Oncologists read this they understand why it is so important to be more honest and transparent about the side effects of treatment and what to expect in relation to aches and pains, including in the months and years after treatment too. There is not enough information being given to so many of us in this situation and we are at the mercy of Google to find out so much about the side effects awaiting us, during and after Cancer treatment, and this is just not right.
If you need help being assertive with the medical team in your life and trust me I know how intimidating, and belligerent, they can be, I am here to help you and help your voice be heard. I have worked with clients for over 10 years with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and am an expert in anxiety and self-esteem issues and have successfully helped many clients stand up to authority figures and get a result for themselves. If you need help with this, don’t hesitate, book in to see me as soon as possible and let’s get working on this asap.