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Thread: Cancer fears at 24 years old

  1. #1

    Cancer fears at 24 years old

    Hi all,

    I am new to this forum, but not new to hypochondria, unfortunately. I have used this site for a while to try and calm myself, but my symptoms are not getting better and I wanted to share my story.

    I have just turned 24 years old and have had hypochondria since I was around 19. It comes in "episodes", I will have a fixation on a certain symptom(s) or illness(es) for a few weeks/months and then all of a sudden I will just sort of get over it and live quite happily until my next episode. I have a history of OCD type thoughts, lots of rumination, over-thinking etc. since I was in my mid-teens.

    Recently my episode has been pretty bad and shows no signs of letting up. Basically, I am convinced that I have lung cancer or throat cancer or at least some sort of cancer that I am not aware of that has metastasized and that I do not have much time left.

    My family are getting so sick of my constant need for reassurance, and typing it out it does seem silly, but I am not ashamed to admit that this is how I feel and what I think. I know deep down that I am a classic hypochondriac, I tick every single box, but at the same time I think it dangerous to dismiss symptoms based on someone being a hypochondriac. Does this mean that they are less serious or should not be investigated, just because the person has an obsession about their health? After all, hypochondriacs can get ill as well, however I think for me it is a result of lack of control over a situation, not knowing and the hope that if I am a hypochnodriac I will not receive any bad news because everyone will simply assume that I am exaggerating symptoms and that there is nothing wrong with me, which at the end of the day is what I want to hear. The thought of receiving bad news from a doctor fills me with fear and was one of the biggest reasons I became afraid of going to appointments.

    I will list my symptoms just so others can relate:

    • Had a sore throat/cough (chesty and dry) on and off for about a month and a bit. Doctor told me it was viral due to all the flying I do. She didn't seem concerned. I still am.
    • At the moment, I have a tickly feeling in my chest, like I want to cough but I am genuinely scared to.
    • Back and chest pain - stabbing pains in back and chest, on and off, shoulders as well. Happens even when I am not anxious or thinking about it.
    • Heaviness in chest
    • Have had a few episodes where I haven't been able to take a deep breath and this has panicked me.
    • A general feeling of knowing something isn't right - feeling in my chest, I laughed the other week and had this horrible chesty sound come out as I did, which really freaked me out. I just have a feeling.
    • Wake up in the morning with sweat in my hair. Doesn't happen often, it could be from being too hot but it scares me.


    Any time I think about my symptoms or they get overwhelming, I start to panic so much. I will go cold. clammy, feeling like I am going to pass out, frantic, all the classic panic symptoms. I believe that my days are numbered! It really is severely affecting my quality of life.

    Over the past few months, I have believed I have had a few terrible illnesses but these are the only ones that have stuck. I believe I either have lung/throat cancer or it has metastasized from another part of my body, probably my mole on my side which a doctor once told me was irregular but he wasn't too concerned about. He told me to keep an eye on it which I have, a little too much, but always in the back of my head I have thought that it is melanoma, despite the fact it hasn't really changed.

    I have managed to get over my doctor-avoidance strategy (in fact I want to go all the time now) and I was at the doctor last week. I told her about my cough and throat, she said my throat looked fine, listened to my lungs, also fine. She ordered a blood test as I have had a weird numb patch under my shoulder blade on my back, and all the bloods came back fine. The doctor used to reassure me but now I have gone down the dangerous path of thinking they have missed something, due to everything I have read online (SUCH A BAD IDEA) and now I am really wanting to make an appointment and just tell them to send me for a chest x-ray to put my mind at ease. But, as my gran said, nothing will ever put my mind at ease. I also think they would literally laugh at me and say no, because obviously the chances are so slim.

    Cancer has always instilled the fear of god into me, especially reading about people with vague symptoms who seemed fine and healthy and it turns out they had stage 4 terminal cancer. It doesn't help that my great aunt currently has terminal breast cancer, a family friend has just died from prostate cancer and my boyfriends grandfather has just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I stupidly starting googling and went white with fear reading about how when symptoms show, that's it basically. I had no idea it was that bad a cancer and the survival rates were so low. I do smoke, not a lot and I do want to quit. I know that if I had a primary lung cancer it would likely be genetic and not from smoking, given my age, but I just can't shake the feeling something is up.

    I am sure there are details here that I have omitted, but basically, I am scared to wake up in the morning in case my symptoms get worse. I am trying to monitor them, but it is hard as a huge part of me doesn't want to think about it.

    Do any of you think it would be worthwhile going to the doctor and making them do a chest x-ray? Bearing in mind I do live in the UK and this is all on the NHS. I hate the thought of wasting resources, but at the same time I am genuinely concerned and worried that I have cancer.

    I hope everyone is doing better than me today! It is really one of the worst forms of anxiety I have ever experienced.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
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    Posts
    41,778

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    I really don't think you have cancer to be honest and you need to trust the doctor's on this one.

    Are you not getting any help for the HA though as that is the underlying problem that needs treating?
    __________________
    Nicola

    “Don't be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don't have to live forever, you just have to live.” - Natalie Babbitt

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  3. #3

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    Lung cancer or throat cancer at 24. Only if you indulged in extremely heavy drinking and smoking in the womb and continued for 24 years. plus slept on an asbestos mat. And even with all that your chances would be low. im sure your fine. If in doubt go see your GP

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    54

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    Hey nervous95. For what it's worth, you seem to have a fairly good understanding of 'how' your health anxiety works, and an awareness that it is an anxiety disorder. That's half the battle, so well done!

    I'm a bit older than you, but likewise I've suffered from severe HA, on and off, since I was a teenager. It got much worse in the last couple of years, after my dad died - I'm lucky enough to have been able to visit a private therapist, and that, plus an SSRI, has done wonders for me.

    My therapist helped me to realise something crucial about HA, and what lies behind it. For those of us who are deeply anxious, and who seek to control as much of their life/environment as possible, it's easy to fall into the trap of catastrophising, because catastrophic thinking is, perversely, a form of certainty. So every little bump or cough becomes 'stage IV cancer' in our brains, because we actually find it more palatable to panic over a negative-but-certain outcome, and then try to control the process (researching treatments, planning our own funerals) than to accept uncertainty into our lives.

    That realisation was, for me, one of the most important factors in getting a grip on my HA. I'm not saying I'm 'cured', or that I'll never experience HA again, but it's really helped me to put things in perspective, and to avoid panicking at the smallest physical abnormality.

  5. #5

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    Hi Nervous95

    That was a very well put together post, I enjoyed reading it despite the topic

    I think many of us here can see ourselves to a greater or lesser degree in your post. As CatLady1 says your understanding of your anxiety is good. I see classic anxiety symptoms exacerbated quite likely by your relatives cancer prognoses!

    I would strongly suggest speaking to your GP about receiving counselling. I personally had therapy for anxiety and other issues and feel so much better for it. Putting your fears into words with someone who does not judge you in any way is quite liberating.

    Anxiety is your "illness" NOT cancer and the great news is anxiety is fully treatable.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Posts
    97

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    Quote Originally Posted by CatLady1 View Post


    My therapist helped me to realise something crucial about HA, and what lies behind it. For those of us who are deeply anxious, and who seek to control as much of their life/environment as possible, it's easy to fall into the trap of catastrophising, because catastrophic thinking is, perversely, a form of certainty. So every little bump or cough becomes 'stage IV cancer' in our brains, because we actually find it more palatable to panic over a negative-but-certain outcome, and then try to control the process (researching treatments, planning our own funerals) than to accept uncertainty into our lives.
    THIS. Every sufferer of HA should have this enbroidered on a pillow.
    __________________
    Formerly Canbud.

  7. #7

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    I tell you what helped put things into perspective for me: I recently typed "causes for stomach bloating" into Dr Google and it told me I might have Ovarian cancer. This of course terrified me until I remembered I'm a man

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    54

    Re: Cancer fears at 24 years old

    Quote Originally Posted by Beachlady View Post
    THIS. Every sufferer of HA should have this enbroidered on a pillow.
    Would have to be a pretty big pillow... maybe just the words ACCEPT UNCERTAINTY?

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