Dealing with the Fear of Mesothelioma Recurrence

Cancer & Caregiving

To be told that you have cancer is such a nightmare and creates a tremendous sense of fear. But what’s even scarier is being told that your cancer has returned.

After all the treatments, testing, procedures, surgeries and getting your hopes up, to end up hearing “Your cancer has returned” can be devastating.

Having a cancer such as mesothelioma is hard on the person and their family members because it is a tough diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, and have been cancer-free for 13 years and counting. I will be honest with you: The fear of my cancer coming back used to haunt me every day. It had gotten to the point where I would have nightmares about it and would wake up crying in my sleep.

This fear created a lot of anxiety, especially when I went in for my checkups. I would always get a lump in my throat and an upset stomach. The entire time while having my follow-up CT scans I would be praying hard – I mean hard!

I had to get a checkup every six months for the first year or two, and then after that my checkups were more spaced out. After year five the possibilities of my cancer recurring were much slimmer.

Once I heard the good news that I was still cancer-free it would feel as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

And then the thought would go from the forefront of my mind to the back. It was still there, but just not plaguing me as much as it did.

Coping with Mesothelioma Anxiety

I searched for different ways to help me cope with these thoughts so they wouldn’t keep me from living my life.

Here are a few things that I incorporated into my daily life to help combat the thought that the cancer would return.

  • Be aware of your feelings and emotions. And know that it’s normal to feel what you are feeling.
  • Talk to someone about it and let them know how you are feeling. You can even start therapy to get more professional help, or join a support group.
  • Journaling can help with releasing things that worry you or some things that you want to get off your chest that you may want to keep private. I would suggest keeping a journal on your nightstand.
  • Do something that will reduce your stress such as exercising, yoga and keying in on activities that you enjoy.

Having Surgery After HIPEC

The day after Mother’s Day in 2019 I had to have a hysterectomy. My doctor was aware of my medical history and noted me as a very high-risk patient. Trust me, she tried everything she could to avoid the hysterectomy.

In all actuality, I was probably supposed to go to a doctor who specialized in gynecological oncology surgery, but I trusted my doctor and had been a patient of hers for years.

She laid out all the risks and continued to tell me that I wasn’t the typical patient and that my recovery would be slower than average.

If you have had surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, and later have to have another abdominal surgery, it’s so important that you communicate with your doctor about the risks, the side effects and what you should expect post-surgery.

I made sure to ask my doctor every question I could think of, including could she do the hysterectomy without having to cut my abdomen – which was a no.

Medical Issues Can Magnify Anxiety

I had my surgery and of course it took longer than expected and the surgeon ended up taking my left ovary. This was because scar tissue was so prevalent that it was glued to my ovary as well as part of my intestines.

I stayed in the hospital for a week, received three blood transfusions and had to get a midline IV in my arm because my veins were so flat. I also had a small bowel blockage and two large hematomas. I know, a mouthful, right?

That’s not all. Let me remind you, my doctor told me constantly that I was a high-risk case and that my recovery would be longer than the average patient.

About a week or so after leaving the hospital I started having terrible pain. I was told it was the hematomas, which had turned the left side of my stomach purple and blue.

I worried it was something else, so I went in for an ultrasound. Three cysts had developed and one was the size of a grapefruit. When I found that out, all I kept thinking was, “Could this be cancer?”

I asked my doctor several times if it could be cancer and she reassured me that it wasn’t. But she told me that given my history, I should go see my oncologist.

Listen, I didn’t waste any time making that appointment. I was so scared, thinking oh my, what if it did come back? What am I going to do?

So I had blood tests and a CT scan and my oncologist came in to tell me the good news: “Tamron, you’re still cancer-free!”

Whew, what a sigh of relief.

If you’re having the same kind of anxiety, be sure to integrate some coping techniques into your life.

And be on top of your follow-up care. It’s so important to make sure you’re present at every appointment, test, meeting, etc.

Being knowledgeable and informed about what’s going on with your health is half the battle.

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