The fear of recurrence is real, but taking a lighthearted look at it sometimes helps lessen the fear.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The fear of cancer can be overwhelming, especially to those of us who’ve had a first-hand experience with it. Naturally, once diagnosed with cancer, none of us want to experience a recurrence so we make sure to do any and everything possible to stay cancer free. But since we often have no idea of the real cause behind our cancer, it's easy to become fearful. We may even begin to become cancerphobic.
The dictionary defines a phobia as an irrational fear or aversion to something. Medical dictionaries define Cancerphobia as an abnormal fear of getting cancer. But isn’t it natural to fear recurrence when you’ve suffered the trauma associated with cancer? Wouldn’t that fear become a natural instinct toward self-preservation?
Normally, I’m not a fearful person. In fact, I’ve always considered myself quite brave. I’ve never balked at taking risks, although I’ve never put myself in harm’s way while doing it. I’ve lived a good life. I’ve done the things I wanted to do. I’ve enjoyed myself. But after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, all of that changed. I began to be fearful. No longer did I possess the confidence and daring I once had. Simple things began to affect me. I realized I was becoming Cancerphobic.
I’ve been coloring my hair for over 40 years and have never given a thought to the potential dangers associated with it until cancer came into my life. Now, I’m afraid to color my hair. Perhaps the dye could seep into my scalp and cause brain cancer. So I let my hair go. It isn’t pretty. I’m almost 60 and gray hairs are sprouting. But I’d rather have funky-looking hair any day than deal with cancer.
And then there’s the electric blanket. The weather’s turned cooler now and I love snuggling underneath my electric blanket. I have one of those king-sized, dual control blankets. My husband and I can set the temperature to our liking. I’ve always liked my side of the blanket to be very warm while he rarely turns his on. But after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I no longer use it. I read that sleeping under an electric blanket can cause cancer. All of those tiny electric currents engulfing my body with radiant heat aren’t good for me. And since I don’t want to get cancer again, I forego the electric blanket and opt for several quilts.
I used to drink coffee or tea with artificial sweeteners. I didn’t want the calories. Being obese isn’t good for those who want to stay cancer-free. I thought I was doing a good thing. But I read an article about the harmful side effects of artificial sweeteners and how some of them can cause cancer, so I stopped using them. I learned to drink my coffee black.
My makeup helps me look good. I use it every day and have for years. I never looked at the label before cancer. I didn’t care what was in it. I only needed it to camouflage the unsightly blemishes. But since my cancer diagnosis, I try to read the labels. Sometimes it takes a magnifying glass. My eyes aren’t so good anymore and those labels have such tiny print. I guess they don’t want you to know that some of the products contain formaldehyde. I don’t know if formaldehyde can cause cancer in people, but it’s been known to cause cancer in rats and since cosmetic companies perform their lab tests on animals, I’d be willing to bet those foundation wearing rodents aren’t doing so well.
There are so many products in and around our homes that may or may not cause cancer. Cleaning products contain so many chemicals we can’t even pronounce their names. In our pantries, convenience foods tout long lists of preservatives. How do we know which of those are cancer causing? Do we need to make it our responsibility to research each and every ingredient? Or, do we become proactive toward our ability to overcome cancerphobia by going green, using only environmentally friendly products?
There are so many things to think about in an effort to remain cancer free. As I type this article, I’m staring at my computer screen. I’m wondering if the radiation emitted from it might affect me in any way. Surely there aren’t enough rads to endanger me, are there?
Oh! My cell phone is ringing. I’d better answer it. Or maybe not. I read somewhere the other day that holding your cell phone to your ear can cause brain cancer. I definitely don’t want that.
If you’ve taken time to read this article in its entirety, I applaud you. It is quite silly, isn’t it? But in order to help you understand the depth of cancerphobia, I needed to write so you’d get a clear picture of what life can look like for those of us who’ve experienced cancer. We don’t really have control over whether the cancer returns, but we want to do whatever possible to give ourselves better odds. And if it means sporting gray hair while wearing no makeup and drinking black coffee, then by golly, I’m going to do it.
Cancerphobia is real. There are varying degrees of this fearful condition. Some survivors only have a tiny touch of it and others have become full-blown cancerphobics. None of us want to become so fearful that we can’t enjoy our lives, but sometimes, cancer does strange things to our minds. The fear of recurrence can be overpowering, but it doesn’t have to become debilitating. Instead of fearing what may or may not cause cancer, choose to take one day at a time and live each day to the fullest. You never know, you just may get a glimpse of that rat wearing makeup and that would really make your day.
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/cosmetics.html https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/formaldehyde/formaldehyde-fact-sheet https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001486.htm https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/artificial-sweeteners-fact-sheet https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phones.html