A woman holds her stomach on the sofa

The Frustrations of Unexplainable Symptoms

There comes a time on this journey where you want answers, as everything that ails us can’t just be cancer or can it. In the beginning, a headache meant my cancer had jumped to my brain, a stomach pain meant that I had a tumor somewhere in there; a backache meant it had jumped to my spine.

Then I began talking myself down off the ledge. A brain tumor usually has to be very prominent to cause pain from my personal research. Ashley, you’ve had one headache. This isn’t emergent. Calm down. And then I climb down off the ledge.

Every twinge of the body is more cancer. Another cancer. Another ailment. Not once has that been accurate in my 26-month fight. I need to calm down.

It’s not your cancer

I’ve had an array of symptoms that seemed unexplainable, but I blamed meds and kept going. Until recently, I developed severe foot pain in both feet. Oh good! Can’t walk now. I mentioned it to my doctor. He definitively said that my treatment wasn’t a result of my foot pain and if I wanted to get it seen about, then go ahead.

He treats cancer, not feet. I get it. You mean I can’t blame cancer on my foot pain? I need to blame something. I don’t run. I’m not an athlete. What is this? So, off to search for a podiatrist and make an appointment; YET another doctor’s appointment, right? It doesn’t end there.

I feel like a fool and a hypochondriac

I also started noticing some shortness of breath. What is happening? Why do I feel like I can’t catch my breath merely lying in bed? Something is WRONG. It’s beginning. I am being smothered out. This is how it’s going to end. My mind went all over the place. I have a blood clot and I am not going to wake up. It ends here. This is it. Self talk again.

Call the doctor. Do your part. So, off to the doctor we go for an echo and PE (pulmonary embolism) protocol CT. All is well. I just need to ask. Am I just out of shape and anxious? It can’t be that simple, right? What is the root of the shortness of breath? I know I have it. I feel it. I look like a fool and a hypochondriac. Great! Now I will be known as the girl with lung cancer that can’t be satisfied with a good report. That’s definitely NOT me.

I enjoy feeling normal. I enjoy doing what I want. I enjoy living life as normally as possible. The tech assured me that it was better to be safe than sorry. I felt empowered by that. However, I am still having shortness of breath and I still don’t know why. Drink water and exercise is my “go-to” strategy.

I only know how I feel

Then I start thinking about myself and wonder if I am psychosomatic or is this real. Am I worrying about shortness of breath and foot pain to the point of making it worse? The whole mind over matter thing really is powerful. There really is truth to it and did I just fall into my own trap? Then I feel really dumb.

On the other hand, I know that only I know how I feel. Only I know that my feet hurt and that I am short of breath, but no one seems to know why. And let’s just be real -- the wonderful world of the interwebs definitely doesn’t help.

When your friends become medical experts

Then those close to me suddenly become medical experts in sore feet and shortness of breath recommending all sorts of things. I understand that they are only trying to help. While I appreciate that, can we just stick to the facts? They start trying to solve my issues.

I love the whole lesson on getting older and aches and pains. I am 38. I shouldn’t be hopping around like a bunny and hassling for breath. My mom has been speaking of me being middle-aged since I hit 35. MOM! I am not middle-aged. Maybe I am. Age is only a number anyway, right? I often regret saying anything to anyone because the lectures and the diagnoses and solutions begin. Let’s leave my symptoms with the practitioners.

Sometimes we just don’t get answers

Sometimes there’s just not a solution. There’s no rhyme or reason. I am learning that not every situation has a diagnosis. It feels strange because I felt fine and healthy and received a stage IV cancer diagnosis from an unrelated issue. I often can’t just accept that there just might not be a reason for my shortness of breath. I can’t just blame it on anxiety or some other emotional ailment. The foot pain has a solution, but there’s not an answer as to how it occurred.

My personality type wants the how and why and when. I don’t always get that. In fact, I seldom get that. How did I get lung cancer? A shoulder shrug is all I got. I am inserting a bit of sarcasm here, but my answer was equivalent to that of should shrug.

Find courage to keep going

My desire for answers doesn’t always come to fruition, but I try to keep going and make the best of it. After all, a little shortness of breath and some plantar fasciitis are mild compared to the debilitating symptoms many experience.

I try to find the courage to accept what I can’t change although extremely difficult. I am still here on this earth celebrating life with all of you and am able to be frustrated when answers don’t come. I have the energy to be frustrated when so many do not.

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