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You shouldn’t go throwing around words like “Cancer”

Today has been one of those days where nothing I wanted to do could get done, because I had to go to the hospital. They ran me through an MRI because, when my hearing specialist got my test results back, he decided it was a good idea to suggest that I might have cancer. Specifically, a brain tumour. What a lovely guy he is!

I don’t believe I have cancer. I think what’s happened is that I’ve had an infection in my ears for 8-10 weeks (I lost track of just how long it’s been a problem now) and it damaged my hearing. I’ve lost part of the upper register in my right ear, and both ears still feel like there’s something wrong. There’s a pressure in there; which is different from the pressure I’ve been feeling in my head for the last year or so. The pressure started around the time my ears started to ache a lot. So… infection. Seems pretty clear to me.

But the doctor said “might be cancer”, so on we go with the damn tests – and the worry that comes with them.

I’m actually rather angry about all this. I don’t need this stress. I don’t need the worry that comes from someone using the word “cancer” when I come to them with a problem. I’ve got enough to be dealing with already without some guy being totally irresponsible. Sure, my symptoms match a possible brain tumour but since they also match a lot of other things, let’s not go throwing around hideous, worst case scenarios. Let’s not get me worried unduly over something that could very easily turn out to be solvable with a course of antibiotics.

The problem is, now he’s mentioned cancer, I’m starting to piece a few other things together. Things I would never have linked before this guy mentioned a tumour being a possibility. I’m angry about this, too – he’s getting me worried over what is going to turn out to be nothing. That’s not what I want in a doctor.

And yet, now he’s mentioned it I can’t help but join the dots on my symptoms. Have a look at these:

  • Dull headache. Rarely gets worse, occasionally gets a bit better. Been there for about a year, maybe more. Always blamed it on not getting enough sleep thanks to…
  • … neck stiffness and a swelling at the base of the skull; which my GP has been treating with a topical gel.
  • Tiredness. Whether I have 4 hours or 10, I’m still tired. I’ve always put it down to the above.
  • Random, short-lived splitting headaches. They feel like someone is driving a needle into my head. At worst, they last 2 minutes. At best, they last 5-10 seconds.
  • Irritability. My temper is strained these days. I never used to get so annoyed so quickly. I’ve been putting this down to tiredness and overwork.
  • Hearing loss. Upper range in right ear is damaged. Can’t understand what people are saying if there’s background noise. Occasionally, just simply can’t understand what people are saying even when there’s no background noise – I hear the words, they just don’t register in my head.
  • Vision loss. I’ve lost part of my peripheral vision, and nobody can tell me why. Sometimes I walk out into traffic because I don’t see it coming. It’s quite annoying.
  • Clumsiness. I walk into door frames a lot. I blame the peripheral vision loss. I also fumble and drop things.
  • Nausea. So, so much nausea. It’s made me lose my appetite, which is no doubt contributing to…
  • … weight loss. I’ve lost 3 stone in 4 weeks. A miracle diet!
  • Finally, we have: tiny, unexplained bruises. They appear at random, they don’t hurt when they’re pressed on, and they disappear after a couple of days; maybe a week.

Now here’s the thing: each and every one of these symptoms has a perfectly reasonable explanation that doesn’t involve cancer. I know this, you know this. I’ve got an autoimmune disease, which explains just about every single one of those symptoms (and probably also explains the hearing loss). I’ve got a specialist who keeps tabs on that illness, and I’ve got prescriptions to control the problems.

The doctor who’s testing me for cancer knows I have an autoimmune disease. He knows I’ve got treatment for it, and we’ve discussed it as one of the contenders for what’s causing my hearing loss. He’s still telling me it might be cancer.

So now I’m worried. Actually, no. I’m beyond worried. I’m fast approaching terrified. He shouldn’t be throwing around possibilities like this without any real reason to do so. He’s got me worked up over something that’s going to turn out to have a simple solution. But, in the mean time, I have to wait for 7-14 days to get the test results that will prove there is nothing to worry about.

Rest assured that when I’m proven right, this guy is getting a formal complaint issued against him because of the stress he’s put me under for no good reason.

About Zoe Kirk-Robinson

Award-winning writer, artist, vlogger. Creator of Britain's first web comic.

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