Every twitch, pain, pressure or change in me causes a mental “is this the cancer” question in my mind. Muscles twitch sometimes in all people. But since the diagnosis, I spend a moment of thought on the wondering about things that I would normally not. This has the effect of making me think more of the cancer, than of regular things. I wonder about dying. I wonder about the eternal worlds. I wonder how I can provide for my family once I’m gone. I wonder enough that I’m documenting this journey or the purpose of gaining a little immortality from writing.
There is also a mental moment involved in wondering, “What did I do that caused this?” I know that train of reasoning has no good solution because no one knows what causes cancers yet. But, what if I wouldn’t have stayed in the sun so long that one summer? What if I had not gone to Mexico one winter? Did I touch something, somewhere, that started me down this path? I wonder about stuff that normally I wouldn’t wonder about. I’m anxious. Doesn’t anxiety, fear, and focus on cancer cause it to get worse? I often tell myself, “quit thinking like that.”
Some environmental factors seem to play a role in many cancers. Cigarette smoking increases the incidence of lung cancer, for instance (or so the Surgeon General says, on every package of cigarettes sold in the United States.) Exposure to asbestos (a kind of clay) is known to cause some cancers. Talc (another kind of clay) causes some cancers.
So, there is good evidence that outside—or environmental—problems can exacerbate, cause, or influence the growth of some cancers. Doctors tell me that smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illegal drugs are all also problematic. There are things you can avoid that seem to reduce the risk of getting cancer. However, some people don’t seem to be affected by these risks; others do.
I burned the roof of my mouth a few times eating pizza right out of an oven. Do you suppose the damaged cells on the roof of my mouth became cancerous? I swallowed those cells along with the pizza. It sort of “doesn’t matter” why this cancer is growing—the issue is in how to deal with it—but, I’m still wondering what I did wrong. I can’t shake the idea that this is my fault, somehow. Or, if it isn’t mine, whose fault is it so that I can blame them?
I had a Neanderthal ancestor somewhere back before the last ice age. Is it his fault?
Test 2 – MRI (continued)
I had my MRI yesterday. I had to schedule an appointment with the laboratory doing the MRI. They are used to fitting people into their schedule because usually an MRI is needed for some immediately pending issue. They helped me get squeezed in the day after Christmas.
Everyone else in the country was returning gifts, and an entire staff of technicians was working to help me with my issue. Other patients were there too. How can there be this many people needing an MRI the day after Christmas?
I was led to a small dressing room. For this test, I had to take off all my street clothes and wear a delightful hospital gown. I was told to keep on my underpants and my socks.
There was a lot of paperwork to ensure that I didn’t have any metal in my body. No pins, surgeries that might have left a tool, artificial joints or other body parts can be inside the big magnet. Somehow, I didn’t remember my wedding ring until I was mid-way through the exam.
Gold isn’t magnetic, but I’d have thought they would have mentioned it. The machine is another lay-down affair. You lay on a narrow bed that will pull you into a giant circle (the magnet) which will do the body scan. The machine is loud, and I was provided with headphones and offered any music I might want to listen to. Once in, I thought of the analogy that I was a hotdog inside a bun.
Then I began wondering again what I had done wrong to have gotten into this situation. The MRI took about 40 minutes. They’d do one scan, make an adjustment, and then announce, they’d do another. I fell asleep, apparently, because every time the technician announced they were changing something, it would wake me up. Is unusual sleep not a sign of cancer?
I think the MRI cost about $800.00. Part of me didn’t want to know the expense. Our family has decided we’d do this—and I am not anxious to find out about the eternal worlds just yet. The costs are irrelevant. I hope insurance will pick up enough that it won’t lead to bankruptcy or something. My stomach hurts just thinking about the expense. Are stomach pains a sign of cancer spreading?