My Three Day Rule

Last updated: April 2019

A few days ago, my son sent me a text at 2:00am. He’s in college, and I know he’s been busy with a bunch of projects that he’s working hard on.

His text said that he had felt a lump, and he was worried about it.

Now, I would never tell someone not to be concerned about a lump. My follicular lymphoma was discovered after I found a lump – a swollen node near my hip. Antibiotics didn’t make it go away, so I had it biopsied. Even now, I encourage my kids to do monthly checks for cancer (and even gave them a suggestion for a reminder).

Stressing about your health

On the other hand, I know that when my son is stressed about work and school, he gets stressed about everything else, including his health. And it’s worse at two in the morning.

So I texted back and asked some questions about size and location, and asked if he thought he should make an appointment with a doctor.

He wrote back a few hours later (after he had gotten some sleep). He was less worried about it, but still not sure what to do.

Explaining my three day rule

I reminded him about my Three Day Rule.

My blood cancer, follicular lymphoma, is an indolent type. That means it grows slowly. Some people with FL can go years without needing treatment. I had successful treatment nine years ago, and haven’t needed it since.

However, follicular lymphoma is also considered incurable. That means most patients assume that, even if we had successful treatment, it’s probably coming back.

Fear of relapse

When I was first diagnosed, I worried about every bump, bruise, ache, and pain. I called the doctor’s office way more than I needed to or wanted to. The doctor and the nurses were great about calming me down. But I also worried about my own mental health. I didn’t want to live my life in a panic about everything.

So I came up with my Three Day Rule. If I have a new bump or pain, and I can’t explain it, I give myself three days before I start to worry. Maybe it will get better in three days. The bump will get smaller, or I’ll remember what could have caused the pain. If it’s worse after three days, I’ll call the doctor.

The last time this happened was a couple of months ago. I woke up with a pain in my hip, right near the spot where I had that lymph node biopsied 11 years ago. I ignored it as best I could for a couple of days. Then I remembered some heavy lifting I had done in cleaning out our house. Maybe a little muscle pull? That made sense. I rested it for a few days and the pain (and my worrying) went away.

Find your way of coping

I didn’t hear back from my son for a few days, so I texted and asked how he was feeling. He told me the bump was almost gone. He figured it might have been a bug bite.

Now, the Three Day Rule worked for my son, but it doesn’t apply to everyone. For some blood cancer patients, noticing a small change, and telling a doctor right away, can be very important.

But it works for me. I’ve been dealing with this for more than 11 years. I know my body well. I know when I need to worry. That’s the most important thing: knowing yourself and learning a strategy for coping that makes sense for you.

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