The Other “F” Word

I went to see my oncologist for my six-month checkup yesterday. All was routine, other than my blood pressure being 131 over something when it’s usually in the 115 range, even when I see my family doctor. No anxiety there.

When he asked what had changed in the last six months, I told him about the endoscopy I had in December, which turned out to be normal. But what prompted it is something anyone whose had cancer faces whether you want to admit it or not (and I usually don’t)–fear. I was having stomach discomfort that went beyond what over the counter drugs could handle. I finally got worried enough to get in touch with my family doctor. Her practice has a secure portal, so I was able to email her and spew out all my fears.

Ten years ago I wouldn’t have shared my fears at all, so that’s a kind of progress. But 10 years ago, I didn’t appreciate how your body can turn on you. Thanks to early-stage breast cancer I do, and it’s hard for my mind not to immediately go to the worst-case scenario. I shared every cancer scenario that kept me awake at 2 a.m. and scheduled an appointment. 

When I came in for the appointment, she was wonderful. I did a brief recap of why I was there. She listened, then said, “Let’s put all that stuff you’re worried about over here,” waving her hand, “and focus on the symptoms.” Based on my situation and history she prescribed a stomach acid drug and endoscopy. I want to stress that she didn’t order the test because I was scared, and I wouldn’t want her to. She ordered it because it was medically indicated. I’m not a big hugger but I asked for a hug after that because her rational but respectful approach was just what I needed. I feel blessed to have her as my doctor.  

I feel blessed to have my oncologist too. When I told him about sharing a wheelbarrow full of fears with my family doctor, he nodded and said, “That’s what happens when you have cancer.” Then he paused and smiled and said, “It doesn’t help to be a cancer doctor either.” I said no kidding.

It reminded me of the “No Fear’ brand of clothing that came into vogue because of motocross. A few years back I spotted a young guy wearing a shirt that said, “Some Fear.” I laughed then, but it’s even funnier now.

The #BCSM (breast cancer social media) community has discussed this residual fear on their great Monday night tweetchat. If you feel like you could use (or lend) some support and you’re comfortable with Twitter, it’s a great chat. You can also visit their website. And they’re not snobs; some things, like fear, are universal, and people with other kinds of cancer have been made welcome there.


24 thoughts on “The Other “F” Word

  1. Hi Jackie,
    A great post we can all identify with. I’m almost 10 years out, and I still have fear, particularly since several women in our online breast cancer community have been diagnosed with recurrence. It underscores that none of us will truly be free of cancer, at least mentally, until we draw our last breath. Yes… Some Fear.


  2. “I didn’t appreciate how your body can turn on you. Thanks to early-stage breast cancer I do, and it’s hard for my mind not to immediately go to the worst-case scenario.” I’ve been here and written about it too.

  3. Great post, Jackie! Yup, the fear does stick around – even after 13 years for me. We know that sometimes things aren’t OK; we know how that goes, and we don’t forget. It’s something that I think is hard for friends/family/co-workers to understand, unless they’ve experienced it themselves. I like that idea of Some Fear – need to find one of those shirts!!

  4. It’s wonderful that you have such a good relationship with your primary care doc. What a huge difference that makes. Great post. Love the ‘Some fear.’ Oh, yes…

    • Thanks Kathi! I am very lucky with my family doctor. I was so afraid of finding someone after my other doc retired but I had seen her when he was serving in Iraq and she was great so I took a chance.

  5. Thank you so much for this. It is indeed the other F word and as much as my rational mind tells it to go away, my emotional mind works overtime. And, I am a magical thinker therefore I get really down on myself when I can’t find the magic to erase the unwanted fear. It is the life of a cancer patient. It dosn’t help when I get news, too often, of someone who has just been re-diagnosed but this time with mets.

  6. hello, Jackie,

    first, I am so glad the endoscopy results were normal – YAY! you have two very special physicians who appear to be true practitioners of the “art of medicine”. and I am so grateful you shared the story of your fears with us – no matter how much we are aware of how a diagnosis of cancer sets us up for the fear factor, hearing stories such as yours is a great comfort, a reminder that we are not alone. SOME FEAR…gotta find a shirt like that!

    much love and light,

    Karen xoxox

  7. The F word has me wondering about each little creak, pain and itch. I’m glad you have a rational sounding board in your family doctor. Apart from the oncologist, my husband has mostly been assigned that job 🙂 ~Catherine

  8. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: The “I wish I had breast cancer” Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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