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Woman inspecting a bruise on her arm with a magnifying glass

So Many Signs, So Much Worry

If you have had two kinds of cancer, you get to worry about two sets of signs that could be something bad.

In the part of my mind that worries about leukemia recurrence, fatigue sets off alarm bells, as do black and blue marks. For the skin cancer side, it’s little flaky pieces of skin.

My skin cancer fears

Since this is a blood cancer site, I’ll deal briefly with the skin cancer fears. As I’ve said before, my transplant history and my daily dose of prednisone put me at risk for squamous cell carcinomas. They manifest as little bits of flaky skin.

Today, I looked at a spot on my forehead and thought, “Oh no, another squamous cell.”

Then I told myself it could also be dry skin. Since these things grow slowly, I made a mental note to see if it goes away with moisturizer, and if not, to show it to my dermatologist at my next visit.

As for leukemia relapse, I’m way past the stage where this is a risk. As I write this, it’s less than a week before my 10th “re-birthday.”

But a little PTSD can go a long way.

Black and blue and worry

And so I have a knee-jerk reaction to things like the big black and blue mark that I have on my left arm. In the bad old days, black and blue marks were a sign of low platelets. And low platelets, along with other low blood counts, were the first sign that I had acute myeloid leukemia.

I know how I got the bruise I have now, but since it’s a VERY BIG bruise, I worried that my platelets could be low.

When it’s nothing, but you worry that it’s something

Is the suspense killing you?

It happened during a tennis game when I whacked myself with my racquet on a follow through. The racquet is supposed to go over your shoulder, not onto your arm, duh. I showed it to my dentist yesterday and he said it must have gone down to the bone. He said he did not think it was a sign of low platelets.

I guess I didn’t realize my own strength.

If I’m tired these days, it’s often because I move around a lot, what with tennis, running, or walking my dog. At times I probably do too much. That’s when I might question my fatigue.

Is something wrong? From bruises to night sweats

It’s a groove in an old record album, where the needle got stuck.

Sometimes I sweat in the middle of the night.

Night sweats came with cancer. Now when it happens I’m just hot. But I still get a twinge of worry.

Throughout your “career” as a blood cancer patient, you dwell on your counts. At one recent visit, my hematocrit was a little low. I believe it was 29.9. (For women, normal hematocrit ranges from 35.5 to 44.9 percent.1)

I told my nurse practitioner that I was worried. She reassured me by showing me the range over time. At one point maybe six or eight months prior, it was also a little under 30.

The next time, and the time after, it was back up to 33 or 34. After my transplants, I never got back up to the “normal” high range, but that was normal for me.

A little reassurance goes a long way.

You can get it from your healthcare professional or you can get it from yourself by focusing on the real instead of the imagined causes of your symptoms.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Hematocrit test. Mayo Clinic. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hematocrit/about/pac-20384728

Comments

  • Cherie Rineker moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Ronni, thanks for this article. Boy do I relate. Both me and my daughter have PTSD. Like you, any little bone pain makes me think I have a new lesion or tumor, one of symptoms of Multiple Myeloma. Prior to last March I had never reached remission. I had been on 14 different types of chemo and within about 8 months I would always relapse. By the end of 2017 there were no decent options left (no, I was not gonna do four chemos at once) so I opted for the CAR-T. It gave me an incredible year without cancer or chemo, but around test time I had some of the worst PTSD. You see, I was MRD negative, no cancer detected in 1 million cells. That meant anything going up meant I had relapsed. I would be such a nervous wreck during the weeks going up to a test and never wanted to check. One time I let my husband open my email, when he said I was still good I thought I was going to faint, I got dizzy and had to hold on to him. He hugged me and I started to cry from relieve. People don’t understand how you can be that way when you are in remission. I never got it until I got in remission. Unfortunately it only lasted one year, then I relapsed again. right now we are looking for a trial. I am hoping I will get in one, because I am pretty much out of options, but somehow, the PTSD is better and I am more at Peace. Crazy right. XO Cherie

  • Ann Harper moderator
    4 months ago

    Once you have cancer it is always a worry of if it will get worse or come back. I try hard to focus on things that will help me to be healthy and try not to think about the cancer. Some days are harder than others!

  • klkeith
    4 months ago

    Oh yes, how true. I am 18 months out from my last chemo for Hodgkin and feel like a cloud is hanging over me. I have scans this week and appt with oncologist next week and am getting more anxious every day. In the pst several weeks I have awakened multiple times drenched in sweat, had to change my pjs and pillowcase. I have had unusual headaches (probably tension). On the other hand I feel better than I have in two years. I wish I could get over the fear of reoccurrence.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    4 months ago

    I think being anxious is normal. When you start to feel the anxiety coming on try to take a few deep breaths. It might help.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    4 months ago

    So sorry to hear you’re going through. As @ronnigordon mentioned it’ll get easier. The body takes a bit to get use to the rollercoaster that occurs to get better. Wishing you better days! Best!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    4 months ago

    Office visits to our doctors is definitely like being on a roller coaster. Good analogy!

  • Ronni Gordon moderator author
    4 months ago

    It will get easier and less frequent the further out you get!

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