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It is Not Always about the Cancer: A Mantra for Survivors

Surviving cancer is great, but it does come with a cost: worry. I remind myself often, dealing with an ordinary challenge, that it is not always about the cancer. How do you maintain a good perspective?
It is not always about the cancer.

After a cancer diagnosis, even with no current evidence of disease, cancer colors everything. The lenses we look through, the opposite of rose-colored glasses, can fog with worry. Right now, for example, I am recovering from an injury. Before a visit to the doctor put my mind at ease, every self-diagnosis invoked cancer.  

Could it be a swollen lymph gland? (Does the foot have lymph glands?) Could there be metastases to the bone? (Even if chances of breast cancer metastasis starting in the foot are low, could I be exceptional?) Might it be a tumor? No, it is a simple bone bruise. I felt out of some clogs and twisted my foot.

It is not always about the cancer.

But why did I fall? Although I could fault a rock in my path, could neuropathy from chemotherapy instead of clumsiness be to blame? I have to remind myself that I fell out of clogs even before cancer changed everything. Maybe it is time to start wearing practical shoes to the grocery store.

It is not always about the cancer.

Then there was what turned out to be, of course, a kidney stone. The doctor, not knowing my history, remarked that blood in the urine could be related to a kidney stone or to cancer. I had arrived at urgent care too late on a Friday, however, for my insurance company to approve a CT scan. A CT scan on Monday would sort it out.

When I noted my history, the doctor assured me that breast cancer does not tend to spread to the kidneys. (There are always exceptions. And then there was my father, who did get bladder cancer. Could I?) I experienced a stressful weekend waiting for the CT scan.  Wondering if I had a kidney stone, or worse, hurt more than the kidney stone, which eventually passed.

It is not always about the cancer.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
Felicia Mitchell is a poet and writer who makes her home in southwestern Virginia, where she teaches at Emory & Henry College. She was diagnosed with Stage 2b HER2-positive breast cancer in 2010. Website: www.feliciamitchell.net
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