Saturday, October 16, 2010

Living with Leukemia. The other side of the story - part 2 Me

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack. Or so I think, of course, this being a self diagnosis I could be completely off the mark, but the symptoms were pretty cut and dry. This is what happened: I was having dinner and the Nanny comes in with the Girl and says to me, look she’s got another one of those marks on her arm, and indeed she had a round, red mark on her forearm it looked a little like a cigarette burn and a little like ringworm. And we started speculating about what it could be. That’s all. And a few minutes later I stopped eating and started freaking out. My heart started pounding in my chest, I heard a dull ringing in my ears, I was gulping down air, but still felt like I couldn’t breathe and my panicked brain was screaming “oh my God the girl has leukemia”. Overreacting, you say? Well, absolutely, I completely agree. Rationally I knew that I was being a total idiot, and there is no relationship between a small mark on her arm and cancer, but rationality had flown the coop.
What you may not know is that in the months before his diagnosis the husband suffered a variety of small illnesses and inconveniences, one of which was round, ringworm-like marks on his arms. I later found out, completely by accident I might add, that Echinacea, which we both used to take daily at the start of the cold season, causes a rash in people with auto immune disorders, like Aids and leukemia. Aaaahh, you say, she’s not as neurotic as we thought then. I eventually talked myself down from the ledge, the husband even offered to take her to the emergency room for tests (though honestly I don’t know what’s worst the unfounded belief that she has leukemia or the possibility of this belief being confirmed), obviously we stayed home last night and avoided having to explain my hysteria to the nurses in the ER. I will, however, be taking her to the pediatrician on Monday.
So there you have it. I thought I had survived this year relatively unscathed, apart from the few issues that I was discussing with my therapist, I was, in fact, quite proud of myself. Hubris always gets you in the end.
Since I’m in the mood for confessions, I get nervous every time I think of the coming winter. I used to love winter. But now I look at pictures of the snow, and I get a little nauseous. I get hit with the loneliness, the fear, the worry, the exhaustion and yes, the hopelessness of this past winter, and when I think that it’s going to start snowing again soon… well, my stomach clenches.
Again, it’s not rational, I know that the seasons have no bearing whatsoever on my family’s health, but that’s what’s really scary, that it’s not rational. I can’t control it. And I was heavy on the control this past year. I couldn’t cry in front of the children, I couldn’t cry, complain or really vent in front of anybody because, well, I wasn’t the one who was sick. I didn’t go through chemo, I didn’t feel like shit run over, I was not the one who risked her life, I had to be strong, I had to take over because that’s what you do in a marriage, when one is down the other fills in, I had to be fine because that’s what was expected of me. But most of all I had to keep my shit together, because I was terrified of losing it, and not being able to get rational, normal, functional again. So I compartmentalized my head, my heart, my feelings.
And now I’m freaking out at the idea of snow.


  1. Ok, so you were not sick, but your share was pretty shitty too (excuse my French). You hung in there through it all, you have been amazing if I may say so. It happens sooner or later, there is a moment when your system just breaks down after a long period of stress. The good news is it usually happens when your body registers that things are getting better and you can let go a little.

  2. This is an amazing post, so much soul-baring.
    I think the fact that you can confess these things is the first step that you're working towards a little healing.
    Full disclosure, I don't blame you for being nauseous at the thought of the snow and a long winter to come.
    Wish I were there to grab some sort of great Italian pastries and gab for hours over coffee while the kids play.
    Hugs and kisses to the babies, Alcira

  3. Hi Alcira, gabbing for hours over coffee sounds divine, but the kids are playing at the park with their Nana's right? ;-)