I'll try to keep this as short as I can, but it's been a whirlwind of a two months that I'll try to summarize here.
It all started out with a simple little bump in my vaginal area. It's a small bump that since discovering over a year ago has never changed in size/shape/or color and now looking back was probably never something to fret about it in the first place. During the Thanksgiving break from school, I had a lot of free time on my hands and began to over analyze the bump, as I did every couple of months, and spent an afternoon on google reading up on the fear the bump had brought me, vulvar cancer. On a drive into town later that evening, I began to think of the information I had read and suddenly I couldn't catch my breath. I wasn't gasping for air and I could breathe just fine, but I felt like I just wasn't getting enough air into my lungs. This feeling continued all night and over the next several days. I began to feel heart palpitation like sensations and called my doctor, who told me to rest over the weekend and if it persisted, to come in Monday morning. Saturday night I developed a weak fever and aches and tingling throughout my body and convinced my mother that I couldn't wait and she reluctantly took me to a local day and night clinic. They ran an EKG, blood test, urine test, and chest x-ray and all that came out was an elevated wbc count, for which they gave me a general antibiotic and a shot. For the next several days my symptoms persisted and my body's weakness and pains kept me out of school for a day or two and after a visit to my pediatrician, who prescribed me an inhaler for the shortness of breath (which had disappeared by the time i went to see her), I was convinced I was okay.
That's when the head problems started (in a physical and mental sense).
I woke up with a strange feeling of pressure on one side of my head, one I had never experienced before. This "headache" was constant and no over the counter meds would do anything to help it. A few days later, the pressure continued along with the development of sharp flashes of pain on that same side. My body aches and pains had never truly left and I began to also feel tingling sensations all over my body and saw spots in my vision all the time. Having always had a problem with mild health anxiety, after several hours on google I was convinced of either lymphoma or a brain tumor. Another visit with my pediatrician resulted in more blood work and scheduling of an appointment with a neurologist 4 weeks later. I broke down in her office, convinced that if I waited that long that cancer would surely take my life before then. She tried to assure me that this could very well just be anxiety, but gave me a high dose of motrin and told me the headache should start to fade. I tried to go back to school that day but I couldn't get through one class without breaking down in tears again, worried sick from the sensations I was feeling in my head and throughout my body. My mother called my pediatrician, and after hearing that the motrin hadn't done anything to help my headache, suggested I be brought into the ER. I had my mind set to get some sort of scan of my head that day, but the ER doctor tried to convince me that from what he saw, a scan just wasn't necessary. He didn't blow off my pain though, and he genuinely sat down with me and tried to convince me of just how powerful anxiety could be. While still fearful of a malignant disease being the cause of all this pain, I began to open my mind up to viewing this as anxiety and even was open to having a session with a counselor.
However, my head pains/pressure and tingles would just not stop. All aspects of my life began to fall apart around me as disease was the only thing that circulated my thoughts every single day. My relationships were falling apart, my perfect grades were slipping, and I spent every night in tears and shaking out of fear. My blood work came back fine except for an elevated ANA level, which was put on the back burner because I was so convinced of a brain tumor. A week after my ER visit, I was able to get in an earlier appointment with a neurologist. While he also deemed that nothing life threatening was going on with me, he suggested an MRI and possibly a spinal tap. He gave me two options: be admitted into the hospital and get the MRI done that night or wait around for a week or so to get it approved by my insurance and do it outside the hospital. Seeing what a wreck my anxiety had turned me into, my parents opted for the hospitalization and I was admitted soon after. I experienced very bad head pain while staying there, but I am sure that's from the stress and fear that being in the hospital gave me. My MRI came out fine and although relieved, both my parents and I agreed to go through with the spinal tap as well, just to be safe. My fluid was clear as water and I was told that everything had come back fine. I left the hospital with a diagnosis of chronic tension headaches. Although I was confused how all that pain could have really truly been anxiety, I felt a little relief. I rested over the winter break and the constant pressure disappeared. I still got the occcasional head pains and the tingles in my body, and ever so often I would experience some shortness of breath like I did in the beginning, but overall, my condition did improve.
After the winter break, I returned to school and began to feel life return to normal, even though my symptoms would return occasionally throughout the day. After seeing myself turn back into, well, myself, my parents sat me down and gave me some shocking news. Chronic tension headaches wasn't my actual diagnosis: viral meningitis was. My spinal tap had come back with a wbc count of 10, while the normal was 5. My neurologist suggested that this had to be viral meningitis, and told my parents there was nothing I could do but rest. My parents kept this diagnosis from me for the better, after seeing what a wreck anxiety had turned me into over the past couple of weeks. Although at first I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, doubt quickly overcame me again.
My symptoms have never truly stopped. At least one symptom is always there, and although they're never bad enough to stop me from what I'm doing, they're always there in the back of mind. Every doctor from the clinic to the ER to the pediatrician has told me that I'm going to be alright, and the one doctor who actually found a problem is convinced I'll be fine too. However, my mind cannot just be convinced of this diagnosis. Why have my symptoms never truly gone away if this was just a virus? Couldn't my elevated ANA and white blood cells in my spinal fluid point to only one thing, cancer? Will I ever rest? Will I ever trust the doctors instead of google and my silly mind? I want to believe so badly that this was meningitis and I'm just slowly recovering and I will get better, but part of me is so convinced that all the doctors are wrong and that cancer is inside of me, slowly killing me and the doctors will never find out. Maybe this could really all truly be anxiety that got me so stressed that my immune system was down, allowing the virus to enter into me, but all I can think is cancer cancer cancer. My friends want me back, my family cringes at any mention of disease, and my mind never ever slows down. Will this ever end?
Thank you for listening.