Also known as, Post Cancer Stress Disorder.
Truthfully I have been somewhat of a stress ridden person for most of my life. Whether that stress came from school, friendships, or relationships, I can get myself worked up pretty quickly. Fortunately, said stress does not seem to affect my performance as it relates to tests, racing, etc. But it is something I continue to struggle with, and as Mark says “take years off my life.”
Although stress and anxiety are things I have dealt with for most of my life, they have been amplified exponentially post-cancer. For example, two weeks ago I had a routine annual physical. Everything went fine while in the doctor’s office, I managed to keep my heart rate decently low and get through the entire exam staying relatively calm. But then, last week the doctor calls and leaves a vague message, asking me to return her call “at my earliest convenience.” Cue the world crashing around me. Heart in my throat, face flushed and a few seconds later tears everywhere.
I wish I were exaggerating, but the physical reaction that follows a call from a doctor is what I assume a panic attack feels like. In a matter of minutes I have convinced myself that either the Hodgkin’s is back or maybe there is a secondary cancer. And just after that I have prepared my speech as to why I should be able to continue to train for, and compete in, Ironman Coeur d’Alene since it is only 10 weeks away. The thoughts get darker but I will spare you the details. Again, I wish I were exaggerating.
It took me 24 hours of playing phone tag to finally get on the line with the doctor. You can imagine how excruciatingly long that day felt in this house, sorry Mark. When I finally got on the line with her, palms sweating and heart racing, she assured me that everything was in fact fine. Just a few vitamin deficiencies, likely stemming from my mostly vegetarian diet. Cue more tears, at least this time of relief.
I can only hope that this reaction is something that will fade over time, and along with it the fear that every cold, pain, or virus is sign of something much worse. Until then, I will manage the waves as they come and be thankful that at least in this day I am healthy.