Posted by lisaok @lisaok, Jun 24, 2022

I was recently diagnosed with cancer. I was oddly casual about the diagnosis initially. I just needed time for it to sink in. At first I was eager to get it outta me asap. Yes, surgery! The sooner the better! Then the reality of the recovery process hit me. I would not be able to complete all the bathroom updates that had already been started prior to the cancer derailment. Cancer treatment would render me useless for longer than I could accept. What about funds? Now I was looking at reallocating all the time AND money saved for the projects to cancer treatment. Not OK! There is a mess and debris and so much work still to do before I have a bathroom suitable for recovery. Time and health and finances now a trifecta of what I call “cancermania”. I have a husband and two teenage children. Cancermania has no regard for their need for time to accept and adjust to mom’s fate and how it will affect the dynamics of home life. Cancermania demands attention and will terrorize those closest to it to immediate action as proof of love and care. It’s a close cousin to “Bridezilla” in behavior. I suppose I could go on medication to numb me out and make me more docile. I’ve been sober from drugs and alcohol for 22 years without issue. Should I let cancer derail that too? I usually pray and meditate and that was enough. Cancermania seems to be unaffected by these efforts releasing an unbridled rage at the absurdity of the timing of it all. Am I alone in this emotional bog?

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@lisaok First off, let me welcome you to Mayo Clinic Connect. I'm glad you're here, really, and have put into words what so many of us have experienced.

A diagnosis of any kind can come at the absolute most inopportune time! As we merrily go on in our daily lives, making plans with family and what we are going to do, then get hit with something outta left field. Huh? Where did that come from? Now what? And our thoughts start to run rampant as we consider all the possibilities, all the ways we may be affected. In my mind I have played the tapes of "if I had known 6 months ago, I would have/ would not have made thus-and-such decision". Sound familiar?

Rereading your post, have you sat down and thought about the reality of how you might handle all this? Is there a less invasive treatment that can be done, other than surgery? Can you bring in others to help get the remodeling done quicker, or have your husband and teens help out in this? Reach out to family and friends to lend a hand, as in the old saying of many hands make light work. And, definitely, do not let the cancer derail your sobriety. You have fought long and hard for it, and each day counts. The cancer will not defeat that. While your mind reels from all the questions and suppositions that keep popping in to invade your happiness, you are considering what all this means to your husband and children, how they may be reacting. Encourage open conversation, no matter how difficult.

So, to answer your question, "no, you are not alone in this emotional bog."


I think cancermania can affect peoples' ordinary logical thinking processes. I was very surprised to have had a Bad News Biopsy and breast cancer surgery last fall as there's no cancer in my family other than a lone case of prostate cancer. The harder part has been filtering out all of the noise and making treatment decisions that are right for me. Yet alone understanding them. According to an OncotypeDX test done on the tumor tissue excised, there's a 3% chance of recurrence of the cancer, anywhere in the body, within 9 years IF I take drugs to deplete all of the estrogen in my body. They will also require that I take powerful drugs to prevent/treat osteoporosis.

If I do not take the estrogen-depleting drugs, I'll have 5.5 – 6% chance of recurrence. I agonized over some of this until I looked at the same picture from the obverse. No matter which path I take, I have, at worst (if the OncotypeDX is valid and both my oncologists think it is) 94% against a recurrence. And the drugs have bad side effects that are not, to me, worth enduring for so slight a statistical advantage.

It's helpful to remember the odds against an outcome as they are just as valid as the odds favoring it. Two sides of the same coin.

I'm not downplaying cancer as a wily foe meriting our full attention. But noting that it is easy to get swamped by all of things it requires from finding the right doctor(s), in a hurry under stressful circumstances, then understanding, yet alone remembering, exactly what those doctor(s) tell us. [Hint: Take someone you can rely on to every medical appointment. It takes at least 4 ears and 2 brains and 2 mouths to keep track of everything and ask follow-up questions.] And then, after getting at least a second opinion, understanding and agreeing to a treatment plan that you feel is right. The whole thing is a cognitive challenge in its own right unless one has a medical or biochemical education in my opinion. Cancermania indeed!

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