I sat in my bed and tears began to fill up my eyes and down my cheek. This couldn’t be real. This is one of my biggest health anxieties, and it was coming true. I began to cry louder and heavier as images of me sick after chemo ran through my head. I hadn’t lived my life. I was getting so much positive momentum, and especially, going to my appointments. I thought, somehow, I would get rewarded with good health for being brave and overcoming these fears.
I began to go down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts. I was angry. The “why me’s” went through my head as well as pleading with God and yelling at him of course. I could hardly have any rational thought process at this time. I thought about the regrets, the people I wanted to tell to fuck off, and the ending scene from beaches that was clearly going to be me in a few short months. This sounds like a lot, right? Yep, it sure does. This was only within the first hour. That is the thing with chronic anxiety and having dysregulated emotions and nervous system. It is just so out of control and all over the place, especially when being hit with unexpected bad news.
I knew that it was okay to feel scared. But I also knew that my emotions were leading me down a destructive path. I felt so emotionally intense. I took the time I needed, and then got up to take care of myself. I started with simple tasks like washing my face and brushing my hair and teeth. I took my vitamins and a drank a few sips of water. I wasn’t hungry, but I knew I needed to eat something. I went for a short walk, and by the time I came back, I felt better. I was more clear minded to go back to the information I heard earlier and process it.
I knew it was important for me to go to my doctor’s appointment the next day even though I wanted to reschedule it and hide under my blankets. That is what the old me would have done. So, I told my mom and two friends, and I leaned on their support. I hate doing this, but it is absolutely imperative to do. I am usually the one that feels comfortable when people lean on me. But I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone and do this for myself. It actually felt good I have to say. So, it was time for me to rest and relax my mind with some deep breathing and my favorite shows. I wanted to keep so busy, but I reminded myself the importance of slowing down at times like this. As it was time to go to bed, I made my gratitude list, talked to the person upstairs, and went to sleep. I was exhausted and after cuddling with the pups, I fell asleep.
The morning came quicker than ever. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and the urge to cancel. But I sat and told myself that I was strong and that I could do this. I know to some of you this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for those of us with chronic anxiety and health anxiety, it was a huge accomplishment to keep my appointment, take a nice hot shower, eat something, get ready, take care of a few chores and more, and leave for my appointment.
I arrived at the breast center and my heart began to beat faster and faster. I did the e-check in before so I was happy that I could just go sit down. I looked around and it was busy. I kept thinking about the other women and how they felt and what their personal stories involved. I felt alone, but at the same time, I felt surrounded by others that were going through a similar process that day. After what seemed like forever, I heard my name. The other women and I in my pod walked over to the side and received instructions. I looked back at my mom, who once went through this same process, and I felt the love and support. I also felt the pain, the flashbacks, and the tears ready to flow. I knew I needed to be strong in my vulnerability, and that’s exactly what I was going to do.
I put on my pink robe and shoved all of my belongings in the clear bag we were instructed to carry with us. I sat until it was my turn for more images. The tech was very nice, and per usual, I used humor to deflect my fear. We talked and before I knew it, I was done. I was told that my scans would be reviewed and that I may need an ultrasound. I sat by myself for a long time and just breathed. A variety of thoughts came and went, and eventually, a nice woman came out to tell me that I needed an ultrasound. I knew that these masses were probably going to need extra imaging but hearing this again scared me. I had been at the breast center for hours now, and I could feel myself getting more restless. My emotions were coming to the surface again. The old me probably would have gotten frustrated. But instead, I breathed more and hydrated myself. I swear I felt better and wish for the longest time that I realized how important hydration was. But back to the story at hand.
I was brought to a dark room for an ultrasound. I am glad that I got to lay down and that this didn’t physically hurt. The darkness allowed me to relax a bit. But then it was over. I was told to wait and see if I needed anymore imaging. I laid in the dark and waited. I figured that I would soon be allowed to get dressed and meet with the radiologist. At least this day was coming to an end, but that meant that I was getting news. It was a catch-24 that I was not ready for.
As I laid there, my mind wandering off, I heard the words, “You have breast cancer,” My stomach dropped, and I just started babbling. I don’t recall much of what I said until the radiologist said, “You DON’T have breast cancer.” I was so anxious that I heard her wrong and I was so happy that I did. I took a long, deep breath as she continued to tell me what the masses were. I got lucky. I felt relief, but I also felt a sense of a dread that I never wanted to hear again but will definitely hear again in my life.
See, my health anxiety caused me to go through so much more than I needed to, but it also allowed me to reflect back on the strength and vulnerability that I embody. This won’t be my last time dealing with challenges or health anxiety, and I now know that I am able to better handle what comes my way. I won’t handle it perfectly, no one does, but I will have the confidence that with each experience that I show up to, despite my anxiety, I will be able to overcome, and I feel so empowered by this. I hope you do too 😊.