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Cancer Paranoia: The Beat Goes On

Cancer not only affects the body, it affects the mind as well.
PUBLISHED July 12, 2017
As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
I’ve been very nervous about anything unusual looking on my right breast where I had the angiosarcoma. I’ve been beyond nervous, actually. I’ve been paranoid.  

A while ago, I saw two purple spots, little bright purple dots on my breast tissue. In a panic, I called the oncologist’s assistant. “I’m sure the angiosacoma is back,” I said. “I’ve got two suspicious looking purple marks on my breast. The breast that was irradiated.”  

The assistant got me in the next day.  

I waited in the examination room for about 45 minutes. I could barely stand not knowing if I was sick again with cancer. I opened the door and shouted to a nurse, “Where’s Dr. Kasper? I’m waiting in here to see if I have cancer. What’s taking so long?”  

I don’t handle the stress of potential new cancers well.  

The nurse gave me a dirty look. I silently cussed her out. Let her sit in this little room and suffer from not knowing if you’re sick again with deadly cancer.  

Finally, Dr. Kasper appeared. “Now let me see this,” she said.  

I opened the paper shirt they had given me to cover myself.   

“Where are they?” She peered at my breast.  

I pointed to the suspicious spots.  

Suddenly, Dr. Kasper started laughing.   

“Oh, Laura. Those are radiation tattoos.”  

“Oh, my God,” I said. I began laughing and crying all at once.  

For those of you who don’t know what radiation tattoos are, the radiologists actually tattoo your skin to mark where they should direct the radiation. They’d been there all along since my radiation treatments four years ago, but in light of the recent cancer, they had seemed terrifying and dangerous.  

“Get out of here,” said Dr. Kasper.  

Flash forward a month. A suspicious purple nodule had appeared on my incision line on my right breast. Again, my mind flew to the worst-case scenario—angiosarcoma. I called Dr. Kasper.  

“I’ve got a strange bump on my incision line. It’s purple.”  

Dr. Kasper’s assistant again got me in quickly, and again, I found myself in the paper shirt. Again, I waited alone in the hot exam room.  

But this time, I didn’t spout off obnoxiously to any health care professional who would listen that I was waiting to find out if I was going to die. I sat quietly. Getting used to the program, until finally, Dr. Kasper came in.  

“OK. Let me see it.”  

I opened the paper shirt. She peered at the purple bump.  

“That’s a suture that didn’t dissolve. Sometimes, the sutures don’t dissolve and they poke up.”  

She hugged me.  

“I'm so sorry to waste your time,” I said.  

“You’re not wasting my time.”  

Cancer not only does something awful to your body, it does something toxic to your brain as well. Paranoia is not fun, but it does help keep you alive.
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