Physical illnesses and mental illnesses individually are already so incredibly hard, but what about when they’re paired together? Well, that’s the situation that I’m currently facing, so I guess I’m about to find out.
A little over two weeks ago, I noticed a lump in my neck, and purely out of fascination, I showed my husband. I didn’t really think anything of the lump, I was sure it was just some weird thing that would go away soon, but my husband still wanted me to see a doctor. I resisted at first, I hate going to the doctors, but it was made a little easier by the fact that my husband also had to see the doctor, so we could go together. The appointment with my GP must have only lasted a couple of minutes; he felt the lump for a split second, and I was told that I would need a blood test, an ultrasound and possibly a biopsy. My GP didn’t tell me anything about what it was, but reading over the referrals he’d given me, I read the words “swollen thyroid gland”. It didn’t seem like it could be anything serious, I figured it would probably just be hypothyroidism or something similar. I was more concerned about the blood test I would be getting done, because of the scars and not-quite-healed cuts on both of my arms. I was worried that the person taking my blood would judge me over them, but thankfully he was nice about it, and didn’t seem to judge me over them. The next step was to get the ultrasound done, and my anxiety was through the roof for this – I didn’t know what to expect, I hate being in medical environments, I didn’t want the goo on my neck, and what if the lump actually is something serious. I’d managed to convince myself that I wouldn’t need a biopsy, so you can imagine my dismay when I found out that I would be needing one. More anxiety! I had my biopsy done a few days later, and the doctor doing it told me that she believes it to be a tumour, and that I was almost definitely going to be needing surgery to have it removed. The sample collected from the biopsy was sent of marked as urgent, and I had my results by the end of the day. While it was not confirmed to be cancer, it is suspected that I have papillary thyroid cancer. I walked out of the doctor’s office feeling quite numb, repeating, “so… I might have cancer?” and “who gets cancer?” to my husband. Cancer is so common, and yet, you still never really expect it to impact your life.
So, how have I been handling the news?
I’ve spent half of my time worrying that I will die, whether by the surgery going wrong or by the cancer, and the other half of my time wishing that I would die. My depression has me convinced that this is happening to me because it’s what I deserve, that I must be so bad that this is karma, that maybe it’s karma for ruining my husband’s life. It has me wanting to push all my friends away, in case it does go badly, so they don’t have to face losing a friend to cancer. I find myself asking, when does it end? It seems like my life is just me constantly struggling, and that I’ve been struggling since the day I was born. I’m not sure why I can’t just catch a break. My mind has me convinced that I do have cancer, even though it hasn’t been confirmed yet. I’ve talked to some friends about how they don’t have to stay with me if I’m dying, I’ve talked to my husband about how he can leave me if he wants.
Depression and anxiety will always make mountains out of molehills, but what about when it’s already an actual mountain? I might have cancer, and that’s huge. How are my depression and anxiety supposed to react to that? How am I supposed to react to that? For the most part, I’ve just felt numb about it, and I’ve been trying to remind myself to take things one step at a time. I don’t know if I have cancer, so I don’t want to worry about that, but I do know that I will be having an operation to get the tumour cut out, and then spending a night or two in hospital, and that doesn’t help with my anxiety. It’s really hard not to look ahead, as well – what if I need chemo? What if the cancer spreads? What if it’s terminal? Right now, I feel like I can’t take on any more issues in my life, I’ve already got so many things going on for me at the moment – possible cancer diagnosis, surgery, PTSD, depression, financial issues, relationship issues, needing to find a job, starting uni in a couple of months – if even just the tiniest thing is added to it, I feel so overwhelmed and overloaded, like my head will explode because nothing else can fit. It’s like all of my energy is being spent on processing the fact that I need surgery within the next few weeks and that I may have cancer, that there’s no energy left over for anything else.
Cancer is a huge thing for anyone, even just the word is scary, but when you’re constantly fighting with you brain on whether you deserve it or not, whether you want it to kill you or not, whether you should get treated or just let it go so it can spread, it adds a whole other level to it, and it’s exhausting. I’m pretty certain that I don’t want cancer to kill me, and I know that whatever it is I need to have done to treat it, I will get it done, but it’s still painful having a little voice in my head saying that this is what I deserve, that I’m such a bad person and that this is my karma for being so bad. And because my brain is using so much energy on processing everything else, it doesn’t have much energy left over to fight these thoughts.
Thankfully, I have an amazing support system behind me, which for now is helping to keep my head intact, and providing me with a place to vent or to distract myself. I’d hate to imagine how I would be handling this without having my support network behind me.