This is my first post here at Anxietyzone and I’m very glad I found this place, although I wish I wouldn’t have had the need in the first place.
The long story (you can skip this part): So where to begin? I have always been prone to anxiety, ever since I was a child. One strong contributing factor is that I was born with a kidney deformity which prompted surgery when I was still an infant. The surgical operation went fine but I had to go on regular check-ups and x-rays throughout my childhood and adolescence. Early on, I developed a fear of hospitals and disease, and from time to time I would worry over medical conditions like appendicitis and heart attack. I recall how I as a six-year-old would walk around with my hand pressed to my chest just to make sure that my heart was still beating as it should, or flexing my knee towards my chest to assure myself that I wasn’t having acute appendicitis. Still though, my hypochondria was rather mild compared to my fear of losing my parents (which caused numerous panic attacks and even police calls when they were late home from work).
In 2009 my father was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer, which pretty much turned my world upside down. I got depressed and received counseling along with SSRI. My father’s illness committed the entire family to do medical research and we spent countless of hours looking up treatments and dietary changes which might halt or reverse the disease. My father pulled through after standard treatment and life went back to normal.
Fast forward to Friday two weeks ago. Earlier that week my father’s illness had yet again taken a turn for the worse as the cancer had begun to spread to his lymph nodes. This caused great distress and as usual I started googling and doing internet research on cancer treatments. On Friday morning I began obsessing over a small, tingling feeling in my stomach. A couple of months earlier, I had read the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer. At that time a small thought passed my mind that this little feeling might be pancreating cancer. I finished the book, forgot about the sensation and life went back to normal. But now, I once again began obsessing over my stomach. Might it be pancreatic cancer after all? Probably not I convinced myself, since the disease is rare and even rarer among people in my age (29). And why wouldn’t the disease have developed more symptoms since last fall? Instead my mind got stuck at stomach cancer, and the day after I was more or less convinced that I had stomach cancer. True, stomach cancer is extremely rare among young adults, but then I thought of a young Swedish musician who had lost his battle with stomach cancer just a couple of months earlier (if it hadn’t been for that poor guy the thought of stomach cancer would probably never have crossed my mind). From that moment on my life has been a living hell, although my fears have shifted focus during the past two weeks from stomach cancer, back to pancreatic cancer, brain tumor, MS, bladder cancer, colorectal cancer and now esophageal cancer.
The thing is that the extreme anxiety I began to develop two weeks ago caused acid reflux, which I of course took as a sign of stomach cancer. Last Wednesday the constant reflux left a clear taste of blood in my mouth. I spat but couldn’t identify any blood at that time – nevertheless I panicked and was driven to the local hospital by a friendly colleague of mine. At the hospital I was calmed down by a nurse and I got to see a doctor who prescribed omeprazole and commissioned a blood test (which turned out to be just fine).
The day after I went to another doctor who recognized my hypochondria and arranged a meeting with a CBT-counselor. At this time my fiancée was beginning to worry over my mental health and we went to see her sister over the weekend. Unfortunately my acid reflux got worse and I began obsessing over my regurgitations. Soon I discovered tiny streaks of blood in the regurgitated mucous and I developed an increasingly painful heartburn last Sunday. After having a pizza for dinner me and my fiancée left for home but shortly thereafter the heartburn “exploded” in an excruciating burst of pain which I was took for Boerhaave’s syndrome (yes I had looked it up earlier). I called the emergency number and my fiancée turned the car to the nearest ER, where they concluded that I had had a panic attack. Since the pain had subsided, we went home.
The day after the heartburn had returned, making it difficult to breath at the same time as the blood taste in my mouth was worse than ever. Convinced that I had a life-threatening esophageal rupture, I called the hospital. There I met with my counselor and doctor, and they assured me that it couldn’t be Boerhaave. My doctor offered me an endoscopy just to calm me down, which I accepted after a few days thought (and still waiting for). Still not convinced though, I went to two different hospitals the days after just to make sure that I didn’t rupture my esophagus. After the last doctor had performed an extensive palpation to rule out subcutant emphysema I relaxed for a while, just to shift focus and panic over esophageal cancer. I asked the doctor about the risks, and he told me that it was virtually zero given my age and lack of other symptoms.
The day after that (i.e. yesterday) I went to another (!) doctor (yes, at this time I had really lost control) and he too ruled out both Boerhaave and cancer, although he thought endoscopy being a good idea. So now I’m sitting here today, scared out of my wits for the upcoming endoscopy which might not be for another couple of weeks. I still wake up with a slight taste of blood in the morning, although I haven’t actually seen any blood since Monday. On the bright side my acid reflux is under control and my appetite is slowly coming back. Yesterday I had two large meals and half a bucket of ice-cream, and I haven’t experienced difficulties swallowing so far, but I’m still obsessing over cancer and it is making my life into a living hell. I fear it’s only a matter of time until my imagination will start playing tricks on me and I will be even more convinced that I have cancer. Every time I eat I search for the slightest discomfort when swallowing, and whereas I used to love to cook I now fear and loathe having dinner. But hey, I brought it on myself sort of so I shouldn’t be complaining. However, this has affected my fiancée in a negative way and I’m crying while writing this because of all the pain I have caused her with my stupid hypochondria.
Any suggestions what I can do to stop this negative feeling harming my loved ones?