A Cold or Cancer? Things That Run Through My Head

27 Feb

Common Cold


I have a cold—sniffles, a little tired, a little bit of a cough, and a general feeling of malaise.  A cold.  I know that I have a cold because my daughter had a cold.  My wife had a cold, and I have the same symptoms that they had.  Its symptoms obvious, the path of transmission clearly established, and my years of experience with colds all indicate that I have a cold.

And yet, since I am awaiting another round of tests to see if I have cancer, every symptom of my cold is now a symptom of cancer.  Fatigue (most cancers) the cough (lung cancer), and the general feeling of malaise (all cancers) even the aches (metastatic bone cancer) all of these symptoms are terrifying hints that I might have cancer.  Never mind that this feels just like a cold.  Never mind that it’s been going around my home.  Never mind that I’ve been much more tired in my life, or that I’ve had no fevers, or that it would take an act of Congress for me to lose even an ounce off of this Santa Claus-like frame.  It doesn’t matter.  The thought of cancer has seeped into my consciousness, and while I rationally know that I have a cold, my irrational self—the part of me that checks behind doors in the middle of the night, or knocks on wood for good luck, or has to walk a certain number of steps before each play during a successful New York Giants’ offensive drive—that self has decided that this cold is cancer. 

There’s just no reasoning with me, either.  I know that this is, as Stuart Smalley would say, “stinkin’ thinkin.’”  I know that I am creating a frightening and, perhaps, damaging internal narrative.  I know I’m just plain ol’ nuts.  But I also know that just a few weeks ago I was cruising along with a pretty good sense that I did NOT have cancer, and here I am being tested for it…..AGAIN!  What is worse, I still have to wait two more weeks for the procedure and God knows how long for the results! And so, in the absence of any real knowledge, I have manufactured a story….A pretty crappy story, I’ll grant you, but a story just the same. 

Somehow I’ve got to come up with a new tale, a new way of thinking about my body and its sensations.  I have to move forward in the belief that I am well and that even bad news will lead to treatment and cure.  I have to get my courage and determination back to where it was when I was certain I had lymphoma….or I could just get over this cold.  That would be nice, too.

Stay tuned.


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