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Author Topic: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late  (Read 420 times)

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Offline Gemmal

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Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« on: February 02, 2014, 07:04:48 AM »
I have a terrible lymphoma fear , and it's going to be two years on March the 1st that this fear took over my life !

I feel like everything is passing me by because I'm constantly being held back by my fear ,

I constantly check for lymphnodes I have a few in my groin and armpits and sometimes have spells of severe of itchy skin

Been back and forth to the doc with bloods tests and x ray and I haven't been for a year to stop feeding my reassurance addiction , but at the back of my mind I'm petrified I do have it and by two years it's going to be bad news , I'm only 23 and can't live like this anymore , I'm unsure about trying anxiety medication
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Offline marc

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2014, 08:28:00 AM »
My daughters friend had Lymphoma at age 19 and is fine now at 24. His two main symptoms were
extreme weight loss and extreme joint pain.
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If you're going through hell, keep going.
Never, Never, Never, give up.

Offline AH1990

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2014, 09:36:52 AM »
I guess I'll call this hypochondriac catch twenty-two. You're scared about a disease and you want to go to the Dr., but you're afraid to go to the Dr. because you're afraid you have a disease. It's something I do as well, but I'll hit you with two perspectives:

1. Getting something checked despite fears can at least temporarily break that cycle of fear.
2. On that note, is getting something checked to reassure you really going to help? Or is it going to make you worse?

I am still a hypochondriac, although cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sort of turned me into a "functioning" hypochondriac, where I still experience fears yet they do not take over my life half as much. My therapist told me about the obsessive compulsive tendencies of a hypochondriac, and as soon as he said this, I realized that I too suffer from the same kind of concept:

1. Medical reassurance is seen as the epitome of "feeling better", and the primary way in which we can talk our minds into believing we don't have X or Y disease.
2. My CBT therapist and I both came to the conclusion that the need to feel better is the obsessive, and the reassurance by doctors is the compulsive.
3. When you sought professional medical reassurance, has it ever helped you to permanently curb your fears?
4. Has lymphoma been your only medical-related fear?

If you answered "no" to questions 3 and 4, then you're in the same boat I'm in, and based on your description, I am guessing this would be more or less the case (apologies if I'm wrong). What I've been doing over the past year or so has been trying to weed out "tactics" that just feed the hypochondria. I am a cardiophobe (constantly worry about the health of my heart), so I used to check my pulse constantly and any time I had a panic attack I would rush to the emergency department. The thing is - did any of this do any good? When you break down the concept of rushing to the Dr. or checking a pulse impulsively, what real benefits can you deduce from them?

These impulses, while you hope they prove something is not wrong with you, they do exactly the opposite. You (and I) are actually subliminally telling ourselves that there is something wrong that needs to be "proven" wrong. Nobody on here can successfully tell anyone else on here that there is nothing wrong with them.

You might have heard something about the limbic system and the frontal cortex being opposites - the former controls emotions, fears, anxieties, while the latter controls logic, reasoning, etc. Clearly us hypochondriacs are letting the limbic system control our trains of thought. It is an annoying person at the back of a bus yelling things at us, and we are believing these things he's saying. When judging thoughts, what sets one thought apart or above another thought? Aside from subject matter, nothing. That's the thing - we let these thoughts and fears take over because whether we are aware of it or not, we attribute worth to certain thoughts, and because your limbic system has taken over your ability to reason, these emotive, fearful thoughts will obviously be viewed by your brain as being much more important.

So, I guess the question is, how do you break this cycle? I can share a few of my techniques.

1. Write things down and instead of relying on a Dr. or third party, force yourself to use your better judgment to disprove the fear. It's a lot easier I find to write these things down rather than trying to work them out in your head, just because the contents of a written sheet of paper do not change, whereas it's a mental battle ground inside your mind where it's very easy to further "disprove" this positive judgment.

2. The "What if" technique where you write down your symptoms and a list of all other possible explanations that you know of. For instance, I would write down "shortness of breath, fatigue, fast heartrate" along with every other viable explanation and how these explanations fit the symptoms. In all of my cases, I found that the less dangerous or even harmless explanations were just as likely or more likely.

3. I am not sure how effective this would be for your situation, but I do breathing exercises to relax myself: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/kb/content/actionset/uz2255.html

4. Mindfulness: http://www.mindfulness.com/

5. Preoccupation - trying to stay busy

6. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): The technique that is intertwined with all of these techniques, consisting of a cognitive side which aims at adjusting how you think to reflect a more positive outlook and a more harmless and productive way of living, and behavioral which helps you adjust detrimental behaviors or habits, as well as adjust some negative lifestyle choices like procrastination or checking a pulse obsessively. Ideally, you would get the most help from an in-person therapist, however, I have been using this: https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome , which is an online CBT module. There are also plenty of CBT books out there, however the one I always recommend is either Feeling Good or When Panic Attacks by Dr. David Burns.

7. Realizing that no matter how much you want it to be, true recovery is slow and will occur over the course of months, as you gradually curb negative thoughts.

8. Realizing that while your life is on its head now, it is not hopeless, and this anxiety is not you. You are still you, and you will get better in time.

- Andrew
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Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. - Thomas Edison

Offline Brooke2288

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2014, 10:13:57 AM »
Wow, great post AH1990! Reading that actually helped me out a lot. I also have a huge lymphoma fear. The fear started 6 years ago with some swollen nodes in my armpits. Enough time went by that I'm not worried by them anymore because I would obviously be very sick if not dead by now if I had untreated lymphoma for that long. The problem is that I find lymph nodes somewhere else in my body and the fear starts all over again and I think "this time I KNOW it's lymphoma!" That same cycle has happened so many times with me. I bet I've found new lymph nodes to constantly poke at probably at least 20 times since this fear started, and every time I move on to another lymph node to worry about, I forget about the ones I was previously worried about and time goes by and those never turn into anything serious. Right now I am currently worried about some in my groin I can feel, but I'm trying to tell myself that this too will pass...but I'm sure I'll move onto something else...
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Offline Gemmal

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2014, 11:23:29 AM »
Thanks for the reply's guys, AH1990  that was a brilliant post! thankyou for taking the time to help me out, I did answer no to your questions and feel like you have totally described me completely!

I am definitely going to try some techniques, particularly distraction!

Brooke i can completely relate , I concentrated so hard on a neck lymph node for about five months to finally pluck up the courage and see my GP , turns out it was just mastoid tissue!

If i cant even identify a lymphnode it amazes me I can diagnose myself with a disease, ahh I hope this passes soon, I have completely wasted two years.
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Offline ColdHands

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2014, 02:15:47 PM »
I'm kind of with you on this one, but for my liver issues. 

My labs have been elevated for several years, but now they are so high that I'm having other tests.  I'm just afraid I was passed off because I'm overweight, female and have anxiety.

As far as lymphoma, my mom had hodgekins lymphoma, bad, in the 70s.  She survived through the grace of God and doctors that wouldn't give up.  Most cancers cause some sort of tiredness even early. My mom would know when her cancer was back before her docs did because she could just feel it.  She was definitely not a HA sufferer though.  She took everything in stride
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"There is just one more thing that bothers me."  Columbo

Offline Gemmal

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2014, 04:31:37 PM »
Hi cold hands thanks for the reply ! Sorry to hear that your having a tough time too ! It's a nightmare isn't it !

I've put on weight just through comfort eating ( I know gaining weight is a good sign concerning my fear but it's a bad day when I'm happy not to have any weight loss )

Sorry to hear about your mum , hodgkins is what I fear exactly , I know it's really curable but Still would not rather have it at all lol !

The joys on hypochondria
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Offline AH1990

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Re: Terrified that I may get diagnosed soon and it's too late
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2014, 01:12:19 PM »
Wow, great post AH1990! Reading that actually helped me out a lot. I also have a huge lymphoma fear. The fear started 6 years ago with some swollen nodes in my armpits. Enough time went by that I'm not worried by them anymore because I would obviously be very sick if not dead by now if I had untreated lymphoma for that long. The problem is that I find lymph nodes somewhere else in my body and the fear starts all over again and I think "this time I KNOW it's lymphoma!" That same cycle has happened so many times with me. I bet I've found new lymph nodes to constantly poke at probably at least 20 times since this fear started, and every time I move on to another lymph node to worry about, I forget about the ones I was previously worried about and time goes by and those never turn into anything serious. Right now I am currently worried about some in my groin I can feel, but I'm trying to tell myself that this too will pass...but I'm sure I'll move onto something else...
Certainty that your fears will move onto something else will breed that result - once your mind is assured about not having lymphoma, it will move onto something different just because it wasn't the entire mindset you tackled, but just the individual fear.

Each fear, regardless of its complexity or symptoms someone experiences is practically the exact same. This means that even though my heart fears are seemingly different from your lymphoma fears, they are actually caused by the exact same mechanism of the brain. This is why it's important to, instead of reassuring yourself about individual fears, to try to as much as possible work on reassuring and working through the concept of "hypochondria" itself. It will be a figurative game of whack-a-mole if you don't do at least something to view these fears in unison.

These fears are side effects of a cognitive mis-alignment, at least in my experiences. They spring out of negative attitudes, bad habits, and they are further ingrained in many aspects by seeking reassurance from a Dr. I think in my experiences the methods I've mentioned that achieve this method of "tackling the entire brain, not the individual fear" is mindfulness and the "what if" technique.

The mindfulness helps me live in the present, while writing down alternative explanations including the disease I fear helps me contextualize the thought and assess its validity, as well as view a set of symptoms in the context of a web of possibilities, rather than jumping straight to the worst case scenarios. This jumping to conclusions or "catastrophizing" as my therapist calls it, has been the cause of most of my panic - it creates a mentality that refuses to see other possibilities other than the one that will create the biggest wave in my life.

Preoccupation and breathing exercises, in my experience, work to relax. I also combine these techniques with generalized life bettering steps such as eating better, walking, reading, working the brain with exercises, and trying maintain a proper hygiene schedule. These extra steps I hope will start to regulate my life and help it, in addition to the CBT-related steps, get it back on track. I found about two years ago when I lost my job and couldn't afford school that I fell out of doing things regularly - I'd go a week without showering, I'd sit on my butt all day, and I'd eat at irregular times, often fast food. This failure to regulate my life, while it wasn't the direct cause of my severe hypochondria, compounded my fears and made it so my brain was an erratic thought battleground.

So in other words, I think the fears themselves sprung out of unexpected phyisical sensations, at least for me. I was sitting in a coffee shop with my then-girlfriend now-fiancee, and all of a sudden my heart began beating quickly and I felt like I was seriously going to pass out. The intense fear I had at that point just made health-related thoughts ultra-important in my mind's eyes, and after a while this went from overthinking to obsessing and frequent derealization, combined with the physical heart symptoms I was already experiencing. Then it was just a fire with gasoline being poured on it.

The thoughts overpowered and totally disrupted my life, almost caused my fiancee to break up with me, and nearly got me fired from my new job. To me, the reason why this happened does not matter, even though I have a clear idea of why. We are in the present and our minds are out of whack at least at the moment - so I believe that trying to re-establish the normality and scheduling of our lives before, combined with the cognitive aspects of CBT, can ultimately get us back on track.

I think one of the most important things my therapist also taught me was that if you have a relapse of fear, it does not make you a failure. The mind loves habit. These fears and catastrophizing are the habit, so naturally it will want to spring back to what it is used to. The idea, I think, is to just be as resilient as possible and to work on self confidence. We are not failures if we fall behind a little for a day or a week or longer, we just need to, as cliche as this sounds, get up and try again.
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Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. - Thomas Edison

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