The Distress of Cancer Panic Recurrence


Just as the gifts of cancer often sneak up on me, so do the losses.  And they hit harder when they do.  I had a little meltdown this morning when I called my insurance company to deal with a billing issue for a medical test I had in March.  It’s nothing I should take too seriously, but once you’ve walked the cancer journey, you really don’t have the luxury of expecting wellness ever again.

I called my insurance company because, although the test was conducted at an in-network facility, the radiologist who read the films is out-of-network.   In the bizzaro world of healthcare, that means getting billed at out-of-network rates, despite the fact that I called the insurance company before I went to make sure I was using the right facility.

Now, I certainly know the drill because this has happened too many times before.  I call and complain, they put it back into review and, 25 days or so later, it gets worked out.  But I couldn’t even make the call for a few days.  Today, I made myself sit down and call, and then it hit.  I’m not a screamer, because it’s certainly not the fault of the person on the phone, but I was upset.   I felt anger and frustration and actually teared up (thank God that happened when I was on hold.)

It wasn’t until I calmed myself with yoga and meditation that I realized it wasn’t about the insurance.  That walk into yet another test had been very hard.  But I did it and walked out without incident.  I waited for the results and was told I’d need more testing in two months (which is right about now.)  I was handling all that, or so I thought, but a simple phone call managed to push me over the edge.  My friend had a similar experience, although much worse, when her oncologist’s office called to say that she should come in right away.  Until it was made clear that it was nothing serious (which, of course, means cancer), she was put into a cancer panic recurrence.

Although I know intellectually that the emotional scars of cancer are the hardest to heal, I’m still surprised when I return to cancer panic so easily.  (Ironic, right?)  My oncology social worker, Sara Duphiney, told me I have the emotional memory of an elephant.  What I remember, I relive.  I’m better at talking myself off the ledge now, thanks to her guidance, but I still find myself out there.  I’ve lost the naiveté of a life untouched by cancer.  Has this loss snuck up on you and how do you deal with it?

Survival > existence,



Image courtesy of brainflakes.

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