How to Stop Yourself From Projecting Bad Outcomes

The black and blue mark on my arm was easily traced to a tennis ball hit. It was a perfectly round shape. The only difference, of course was that it was blue and purple and not yellow., I could remember getting hit there.

But what about the mark on my arm? And why did another mark spring up so quickly when I scraped my arm on the dog’s tags?

The rational and irrational explanations

  • The rational explanation is that I am at a certain age when people bruise more easily.
  • The irrational one is that my platelets have dropped, and I am relapsing.

More sores, more bruises

Moving on to another problem, which connects to the first in a way that you will see, I have a mouth sore on the side of my tongue. It is very painful and reminds me of the mouth sores that I got in the hospital when my white blood cells were so low that I was in a state called neutropenia. This is when you have very few neutrophils, a type of infection-fighting white cell. I don’t know what kind of sore I have, canker sore or cold sore or other. As you can see from the Cleveland Clinic’s explanation, different sores have different characteristics.1

PTSD and fears of relapse

The point of bringing this, and the bruises, up, is that it activates symptoms of PTSD. In my case, and likely the case of other blood cancer survivors, that means fear of relapse. Both are connected to low blood counts being a sign that I had leukemia in the first place and was relapsing after my transplant. The traumatized mind says, “You are relapsing!”

But wait, with this and other problems that can set me (or you) off, looking at a rational explanation, or checking with a trusted healthcare provider, can lower the temperature. Let’s go back to the bruises. Looking up things on the internet can sometimes make the situation worse. For example, many of the health problems that you look up can lead you to the part where it says, “You’re going to die from this!” You get a long list of real possibilities that seem manageable. And then at the bottom, there it is: DEATH.

Confirming the most likely reason

In my case, I was confirming a benign explanation: I knew that the older you get, the more easily you bruise. I looked up, “Do older people bruise more easily?” The answer was yes. This still didn’t stop my annoying thoughts, though. Next, I texted my nurse practitioner and asked if she could talk. I’m lucky to have her cell phone number, and I don’t want to abuse the privilege. Calling her on it during working hours would not have been good, but a text instead of the more usual page seemed appropriate. She said that sure, she could talk. I ran it all by her. She said what I thought, that these bruises were normal. She said I could get a blood test to confirm if I wanted, but I decided I didn’t need to.

Back to the mouth sore. Those that I had during chemo were all over my mouth and down my throat. And the one in residence is just one, on the side of my tongue. A drop in white blood counts would not likely lead to one mouth sore. As luck would have it, I had a dentist appointment coming up. I showed the dentist the spot, and she didn’t make much of it. She told me to try rinsing with Benadryl and Kaopectate. (The Kaopectate holds the Benadryl together.) This didn’t help much. I rinsed with salt water to the extent that I could tolerate it.

Stopping the brain chatter

Also, I told the dentists that I had stopped taking Valtrex, the anti-viral, and wondered if I should start again. She said yes. None of this stopped it from hurting, but it did stop my mind from chattering, though breakthrough worries still hopped on the back of the pain.

Looking at your fear, and putting it next to the probable, logical outcome, can be a way to ease the anxiety. It helps to accept that catastrophic thoughts will intrude again. And it helps to have a toolbox for reigning these thoughts in. Or alternately, just sitting with them, however uncomfortable, and knowing that they will pass.

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