Thursday, January 31, 2013

I don't have brain cancer

I didn't realise the other day when I put up a post about my anxiety-dreams that it could be mis-read. When I wrote that I have "cancer-brain" it was lazy writer-shorthand for "I'm experiencing post-cancer anxiety about it returning and it's giving me nightmares".

For those who mis-read or misinterpreted, sorry about that. Didn't mean to cause a panic.

This problem is apparently hugely common, like the post-treatment depression that came out of nowhere when it was all over. But of course, no one told me anything about it. Like every. single. symptom I had from the chemo and other treatments, I found out about it by experiencing it first hand.

And I guess it's more or less unavoidable because of the sneaky nature of the disease. Once you've had it, no matter how slim the statistical chance of recurrence (in my case around 5%) you just don't know whether you're going to be one of that small unlucky number. Once again, statistics say that if you get through five years you're more or less in the clear. But statistics are just that; they're not your own personal case history.

So the thought torments you more or less constantly and if you don't get philosophical about it, it can ruin your day. Sometimes it just ruins your day no matter what.

The problem with cancer is that the individual cells are indetectable by any current technology, and can quietly travel around your body, settle in and start to grow and spread long before you have any notion there's anything going on. Once it's been in there the first time, you just have to keep checking and keep your fingers crossed.

I'm more or less OK, brain-wise, most of the time, but sometimes it just kind of jumps out at you unexpectedly. I had another dream that I was on holiday with a friend and we got lost in the woods and I suddenly felt all chemo-sick again and my hair fell out. When I woke up, I was momentarily surprised and confused to have a full head of hair and not be sick, it was so real and so familiar.

No matter how well-adjusted you are, the anxiety sometimes gets to your brain in subconscious ways. Hence, bad dreams. The kind that stick with you for the rest of the day. I'm also the sort of person who fights depression and anxiety all the time anyway. My brain has been my mortal enemy most of my life.

What annoys me is that all these things are the sort of thing that, in a first world nation, cancer patients get told about and can prepare for. You get given pamphlets and things and doctors normally offer help and support services. But this is Italy, and as a culture, they don't volunteer information, even when you ask direct questions. You have to be very specific, which more or less means that you have to already know about the thing you're asking about and they pretty much just leave you to deal on your own.

But who needs a doctor to tell you things when you've got the internet, right? The internet knows everything.



Teresa B. said...

Glad you don`t have Brain Cancer.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

me too.