Coping with a Cancer Scare and Covid Anxiety

Kelly is a writer, animal lover, makeup enthusiast and a cancer survivor.

Well, let’s add coping with a cancer scare and Covid anxiety simultaneously to my list of talents. Last week I had my annual oncology visit. I found a lump about a week before the appointment, and my HCP took one look and scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound. This was on a Friday and the tests were scheduled for Monday. My doc was not messing around. Combined with my mild Covid fear, that made for an anxious weekend.

After mammography that left me feeling beat up, ultrasound, and a brief yet eternal wait for the films to be read, I got the all clear. I am the proverbial cat using its lives. Turns out the lump is a fatty calcification (the radiation fried some of my fat cells into a crispy lump) and is about the size and shape of my original malignant lump. Not funny, universe, not funny.

Cancer survivor PTS is real, and approximately 1 in 4 breast cancer survivors will deal with it. I have not been diagnosed with PTS, and I do not use the term lightly. If you feel you are dealing with PTS, please contact your healthcare provider for help.

I deal with a nagging voice at the back of my mind that can’t be quieted, and other survivors describe the same thing: relieved to be in remission, grateful and optimistic, doing all the healthy things, yet no matter how loud the inner self screams, the voice continues. It’s like static in your brain caused by the shouting match between your will to survive and the threat of recurrence. Some days it’s barely noticeable and other days it’s relentless.

Which brings me to Covid anxiety (which I’m sure many people are dealing with). Here are tips on how to cope with Covid-related anxiety. I social distance, I wear a mask, I don’t do much other than grocery shop, and still, I worry that I’ll get the damn disease. Yet that anxiety is a fraction of the cancer anxiety that has been with me for seven years. And coping with a cancer scare and Covid anxiety is no joke.

What I know about Covid is not much, but I’m optimistic that we’ll have a vaccine within the next year. There is a tunnel, and there is light at the end of it. You don’t get the tunnel or the light with cancer.

The threat of a second cancer looms for the rest of your life, not so much because you’re at a higher risk of getting it, but you’re at a higher risk of that second cancer being metastatic. Not curable. When I am ten years in remission I will be declared cancer-free, but it can still recur any time. Twenty years later. It is an ugly, insidious thing, and I was reminded of that last week.

Thankfully and coincidentally I had a mini-vacay at the coast already planned, and the huge sigh of relief after my tests made this getaway even better. It was perfect timing for some relaxing away from home for the first time in over a year. These two days were exactly what I needed to cope and to deal. I spent more time in my room exhaling than anything, and I’m not mad about it.

More on my Bed & Breakfast retreat to come; and yes, Miss Grace was with me, my unofficial emotional support animal. Right now I have a gratitude journal waiting. It also helps.