Sunday, August 22, 2010

Being a horse or a zebra

The other day I had a discussion with my therapist about whether I am turning into a hypochondriac and over reacting every time there is something wrong. Do I let the little things (headache, cough, etc) become big things? Should I ignore them or when should I call the doctor? Can I ignore them or should I call the doctor?

The medical profession is also partly to blame as once you have a cancer or other bad diagnosis, they are quick to put you on the fast track for more tests for what otherwise would be minor issue. Once you get a little tag in your file that says 'cancer' or something else nasty, they send you down the little path of tests. Which, yes, you can refuse, but then invitation counts more than the action. (Just like with party invitations you become part of the in-group.)

My therapist made the analogy that in medical school, doctors are trained to look for the zebras in the herds of horses. To most doctors, I am clearly a zebra.

People talk about going back to a new normal after a cancer diagnosis but I was never an adult without a cancer diagnosis. I was 19 the first time so I have spent all my adult life being fast tracked by doctors looking at a zebra. My therapist actually has also had breast cancer but she was an adult when she had it. I think she is somewhere in her 50s and I think she had breast cancer in the past ten years. (I don't know exactly because we talk about me, not her as I am the patient.) She has been an adult before and after cancer so she has a sense of what I am missing.

The question becomes, as my therapist summed it up, as a zebra how many stripes do I want to have? I would prefer to have none and blend in with the horses but am not sure that its possible.

1 comment:

linda said...

Cancer at nineteen...you are a zebra. Have you ever written your medical history in one post? I'd like to read it.