Joyce Minor

Always wondering about the next ailment

One of the lingering side effects of a long illness, particularly when it was cancer, is the tendency to overreact to any pain or other physical symptom that isn't readily identifiable.

I'm sure my doctors were trying to help when they said that any reoccurrence of my cancer would almost certainly be in a different part of my body, such as the uterus or liver. But, in reality, having that knowledge only magnified my concern.

Now, every headache is suddenly a brain tumor. Every stomach ache is pancreatic cancer. Every pimple or pound gained or lost is somehow a symptom that the beast is back.

Consequently, when I recently developed numbness in my fingers I immediately assumed it was one of two things, either a delayed side effect of chemotherapy (unlikely since my last treatment was almost six months ago) or a resurgence of cancer somewhere in my body affecting the nerves and blood flow to my hands.

To make matters worse, when I reported the symptoms to my doctors, they disagreed about what it might be. They also gave differing advice about what should be done to identify the cause of my steadily worsening symptoms. Needless to say, all of this did not help my state of mind.

I couldn't help thinking that if I did not have a new cancer somewhere then perhaps I had something even worse like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease. You see, once the unthinkable (cancer) has actually happened to you, it's open season. You feel totally vulnerable to every horrific health crisis imaginable.

I soon found I could not sleep more than a few hours at night before waking up with my hands totally numb and stiff. The only way I could get back to sleep was to sit up in a chair and let my hands hang straight down at my sides. The slightest bend in wrists or elbows kept my hands almost totally numb and me awake for countless hours.

The holidays came and went amid all this, and though my oncologist had promised to refer me to a neurologist, that doctor was out of town until Jan. 6 so all was on hold or, more accurately, "frozen" till then.

All I could do was endure it, and pray for peace of mind. I gave my worries to God and the days passed quickly, with me actually feeling confident that the problem would prove to be something easily solved and not the sign of anything serious or permanent. As usual, when God is all I have to hold onto, I find he is also all I need.

Jan. 6 rolled around and an appointment was set for the 8th. The neurologist performed a series of tests and determined that I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. He recommended four weeks of physical therapy, and if that doesn't work, surgery on both wrists. Fortunately, this type of surgery has been refined from what it used to involve so that now it is usually an outpatient procedure requiring only a two-inch incision on the inside of each wrist. And the recovery is not nearly as long as it used to be.

A year ago the prospect of any surgery scared me to apoplexy, but now that I've survived being nearly cut in half, this sounds like a "lie-down in green pastures and a walk beside still waters".

But even if it turns into another uphill climb, I'm ready, because I'm never alone.