Saturday, April 27, 2013

Am I a Hypochondriac?

Maybe, if you are an anxiety all-star like me, you have asked yourself at some point "How would I know if I had cancer?".  Maybe you've imagined what it would be like to figure something like that out.  Well, this is how it went for me.

After Julia was born, I'm not sure exactly when, I started itching.  Really bad.  So bad that as a grown-arse woman I could not control scratching.  It started on my lower legs and eventually affected my entire body.  I itched so badly that I became covered in extreme scratches, sores, and scabs.  It is not cute.  I have ruined a lot of sheets and clothes, and often wake my husband up at night because I'm scratching so badly in my sleep.  If my skin is dry, if it is hot and humid out, if I sweat, or if I'm wearing a bra or anything with a waist band or textured fabric of any kind it is excruciating.  Nothing makes it better, but those things make it much worse.  When I'm at home I wear loose jersey pajama or yoga pants and my husband's biggest oldest t-shirts--just the kind of ensemble that makes a man want to rush home to his lady.  He is a saint.  If we have to go somewhere, I often get the kids all dressed and buckled in the car and then run back inside to get dressed to minimize the time I have to have clothes against my skin.

At first I thought it might be some kind of hormonal thing.  Hormones can really mess a girl up and I've been stewing in a cocktail of pregnancy/postpartum/nursing hormones for years.  At the beginning I also thought it might be a result of, ahem, substandard postpartum hygiene.  When you have 4 kids ages 5 and under (which is what I had when this started) showering falls to the bottom of page 1000 of your to do list, at least for me.  Finally, I thought it might be a side effect of the anti-depressant I was taking because I had the PPD.  Each of these was pretty much eliminated over time as a suspect.  Every time the doctor sent me for blood work it came back clean as a whistle.  I tried every cream and lotion you can imagine, I tried elimination diets and added more probiotics.  I had been using vinegar, baking soda, and other non-toxic cleaners for years but eventually I eliminated all commercial hygiene products from my routine as well.  I washed my hair with baking soda and vinegar, brushed my teeth with baking soda, and used a coconut oil and baking soda paste as deodorant.  My husband rolled his eyes but it all worked well even if it didn't improve my itching.

I was straight up starting to lose it.  The stress of being constantly uncomfortable and often in pain, of having to choose clothes to minimize the discomfort but not draw attention to myself, and of being ashamed of the appearance of my skin was wearing me down.  This all continued through another pregnancy (Adam) and I actually spent most of the night before his birth waking up to scratch and put on lotion.  After Adam was born,  I redoubled my medical efforts and saw an immunologist, dermatologist, and a homeopath.  I've been put on steroids, anti-histamines, and homeopathic remedies.  Nothing has helped.  NO. THING.

All this time I would research obsessively.  I would pursue any lead.  One silly, crazy, completely off the wall possibility kept popping up in my search:  Lymphoma.  LOLS!  That's not me!  That's for other people on TV.  Besides, I had none of the other symptoms.  I put it out of my mind, but it would keep popping up, and that thought spiral went something like this:  "Of course I'm fatigued, I have 5 kids ages 7 and under and I don't have any enlarged lymph nodes and that is for other people on TV, and stop even thinking that you narcissistic hypochondriac nut job."  This kind of thing continued on and off over the course of the 3 years after Julia's birth.

Finally, on December 28th, 2012, I went to the chiropractor and as I was about to leave she said, "Are you coming down with something? Because I feel a swollen gland on your neck."  It would be a long time between that moment and my formal diagnosis, but in that moment, I knew.  I just knew deep down that I was not coming down with something.  I knew I had cancer.


  1. what prescriptions did your dermatologist give you? My husband has had insane itching since June! Sores and the whole bit. They have given him creams, pills, etc. I know that his body is reacting to something is showing up in his skin. We are going to see a functional medicine doctor later this week.

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    They have me some kind of a "mild" steroid cream, one of the "nisone" deals. It did nothing for me. Obviously, I had a huge underlying issue. My itching reduced by easily 75% after my first chemo and was completely gone after the second. I've not itched since. Itching can be a symptom of many different internal issues so just don't give up. Keep digging to find the root!


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