It is Not Always Cancer

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JUNE 27, 2017

Every time we have a headache or a sore back or a lingering cough or any other anything, we assume it is cancer. Cancer becomes our immediate go-to diagnosis. Some of you have heard my most embarrassing story about this. Some years ago, I palpated a lymph gland in my neck. It was definitely a nodule, and I definitely assumed it was metastatic cancer.

Since it was Sunday, I took my dog out for a walk, stamping along and worrying. We passed a woman walking a perfectly behaved dog off leash. I began to yell at her about our town's leash law: didn't she know that her dog had to be leashed etc.? She understandably looked at me as though I were a lunatic, and we both hustled off. A few days later, the node was gone, but my embarrassment lingers years later.

In all cases, it is helpful to remember the two week rule. If something lasts for longer than two weeks (and this clearly does not apply if you think you are having a heart attack!), call the doctor. Most of the time, the worrisome symptom will have vanished before then. If not, you still are likely to be reassured.

This is an article from Cure Today about this very dynamic. It will feel familiar.

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

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.

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Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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