I have always had the tendency to be an anxious person. Looking back, there are certain seasons in my life that I can identify as more or less anxious times, but it’s always there. At this point in my life, I’ve gone down a rabbit hole. So the fact that currently my anxiety levels are sky-high is completed justified, as it turns out EVERYTHING is trying to kill me.
What this really boils down to is a fear of my cancer coming back. Fear of Recurrence (FOR) is a very real thing for cancer survivors. Oddly enough, FOR can affect survivors regardless of stage of diagnosis. So, whether you are diagnosed at an early or a later stage, you can experience intrusive FOR. One thing that has been shown in several studies is that young survivors with children (vs. those without children) consistently report higher and more debilitating levels of FOR. So I guess that helps account for what I’m experiencing. At this point in my life, I think twice (or like 50 times) about everything that I put in or on my body.
I try to avoid endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that interfere with your hormones and can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, infertility, etc. These are especially dangerous for those with developing reproductive systems (children) and those with hormone receptive positive cancers (me). Anything that mimics hormones can give my cancer something to feed on and therefore grow and spread and then kill me. Unfortunately, endocrine disruptors are in pretty much everything: toothpaste, face wash, shampoo, make up, lotions, nail polish, shampoo, hairspray. Beauty products can be filled with phthalates and parabens (more endocrine disruptors). So I’ve made the switch to purchasing safer, cleaner beauty products or I make my own.
Then, there are your cleaning products. They are full of chlorine and ammonia which are skin and lung irritants. They often contain preservatives such as formaldehyde and other carcinogens. So your house is clean, buuuuuut you might get cancer.
One glass of wine a day can be good for heart health and has protective properties against Alzheimer’s, but is linked to an increase in breast cancer. Well, maybe that explains some things for me….. Kidding. Kind of. I have three kids. I drank a lot of wine. Before learning that wine could kill me. Now I drink, but I’m slightly more judicious about it. Because, let’s be real, I’m not quitting wine. Who wants to live in a world where you can’t ever drink wine? But I digress.
Then there are food choices. Y’all. The food choices. Food is what gives me the most anxiety at the moment. I feel like there are no good choices. Meats and dairy can be contaminated with antibiotics, hormones, and steroids. There are countless studies that show a vegan or vegetarian diet can lower your risk of all types of cancer and help support healing in those who already have cancer. In fact, a plant based diet is the ONLY lifestyle that has been proven over and over again to improve heart health, reduce cancer risk, and improve overall health. But, vegetables can be contaminated with pesticides and eating 100% organic may not be in your (my) budget all the time. You want to avoid carbohydrates because those quickly turn into sugar which can fuel cancer. Some schools of thought suggest you even avoid natural carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes/lentils/chickpeas, etc. So what the heck do I eat?
I think I’ve mentioned before that the most ideal diet for my health would be a vegan, low-carb diet; however, I’m finding that difficult to sustain while feeding my family and not having to cook multiple meals (because ain’t nobody got time for that). And anytime I eat or drink something that doesn’t fit into this diet, I am having a lot of anxiety and having these intrusive thoughts where I can literally picture the cancer growing inside of me. But I eat. Because I have to eat. But also because I like to eat. And I don’t want to be robbed of that.
What finally sent me over the edge was when I recently learned that crock pots are bad for you. Apparently, they can leach heavy metals into your foods. I mean, really?! Come on. I knew that plastic was bad for you. (Even BPA-free plastics are bad because generally they just use a different chemical that is still an endocrine disruptor.) But my crock pot is in on the plot against my life?! Is nothing sacred?! Next thing you know, someone will tell me that coconut oil or cloth diapers are somehow bad for you (If you somehow have this knowledge, just keep it to yourself. I couldn’t handle it.). I am confident that someone on Facebook could defile and ruin Every. Single. Thing. for me.
I am working really hard to find a balance. I know that FOR is something that will come and go for the rest of my life. I know there will be triggers, such as anniversary dates of my diagnosis and surgery or hearing of others who have been recently diagnosed. But I need to find a way to go on living without being afraid that everything is going to cause my cancer to come back and kill me. Because that’s stressful. (And, by the way, stress will kill you.)