Skip to content

Subscribe to campari&sofa and receive new posts via email

Training the monkey mind

Posted in Health

The woman with the crisp white coat who showed me into the darkened ultra-sound room was familiar. In fact, I remembered her well, because her name is Claudia, and she is from Brazil. It’s an odd examination, the ultra-sound: you are in a darkened room, in close proximity to a technician who slides a wand up and down your goop-covered abdomen (in my case), and stares at a screen, without uttering a word on what she is seeing. You can’t make aimless chitchat because she is concentrating so you are left with eyes turned towards the ceiling, wondering if she is seeing something you are not going to know about until your doctor calls you.

For years I worried I would get cancer. It was an irrational fear, as cancer doesn’t exactly run rampant in my family. Then I did get cancer, I got through it and I thought I was done worrying. Or, at least, I was done worrying about my ability to get through something so life-changing. I knew I would have to live with this shadow for the rest of my days but I was so happy at having come out at the other end somewhat unscathed that I believed I would be able to manage my worry.

It’s commonly accepted now that patients who have gone through potentially lethal diseases suffer from a form of PTSD, and more studies and programs are targeted at helping them regain the emotional balance they had before getting sick. I can attest to that. A year after my surgery, after weeks of radiation therapy, endless blood tests and doctor’s visits, nearing my year mark mammogram, which was already making me tense, I began experiencing a weird pain in my abdomen. First I decided it was stress related, then maybe it was all the food I ate over Christmas, but the dull ache refused go away.

After driving my family to insanity, constantly worrying about what it could be, I finally go to the doctor’s. She has no explanation so she sends me for an ultrasound. Because of my history, she says. That is what they all say: I sneeze and I get sent for an MRI, because of my history. No matter how well I feel, how healthy I look, cancer is not a disease I will ever be cured of. It might never rear its ugly head again but, then again, it might. Some people have smaller chances than others but one is never off the hook completely.

During the three weeks I was experiencing this vague and mysterious pain, I could actually see my mind slipping and knotting and taking into consideration the most outlandish outcomes. Yet, I was unable to stop it. For all my familiarity with meditation and mindfulness, the shock I experienced the day I discovered I had breast cancer was still making its ripples felt, clouding my judgment. And there was nothing I could do. I realized the magnitude of what I had felt that day, and the monumental effort I made to shut everything out so I could take care of it without looking too far into the distance. If a car backfiring can drop a war veteran right back in the middle of combat, an unexplained pain can convince me to think some other part of me is broken.

It is no way of living, I kept reminding myself, pushing it aside and trying to get on with my days. I have to strike a balance between rationality and fate. The ultra-sound revealed nothing was amiss. All my internal organs are working the way they are supposed to and doing fine, thank you very much. The dull pain is still unexplained. My doctor suggested I see a gastroenterologist. I probably won’t. I am chucking it down to stress and moving on, hoping to have learnt a lesson for the next time something hurts. Which it will, because, at my age, body parts hurt for no reason other than repeated use for over half a century. Eventually, something will break down for good. In the meantime, I am determined to train the monkey in my head to be a bit more disciplined.

Share on Facebook

14 Comments

  1. silvia
    silvia

    My monkey is endlessly jumping and running everywhere these days……the poor thing 🙂

    January 14, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      It will be over soon. Hang in there.

      January 17, 2017
      |Reply
  2. Unfortunately medical science isn’t perfect and often times diagnoses fall well short of anything being explainable. I’ve had to learn about this while trying to maneuver through it with my mom with her own gastrointestinal issues. Fifteen months after her initial introduction to this mine field otherwise known as healthcare, she still suffers from inexplicable stomach pain and even the new gastroenterologist has no clue. In your case, I’m very glad they discovered everything looks good ‘under the hood.’ Stay well.

    January 13, 2017
    |Reply
  3. It is a strange feeling, indeed, when the acknowledgment of irrationality does little to quell the fear it has already created.

    Whenever I’m dealing with people who are meant to be concentrating on critically important tasks (including sonographers, phlebotomists, etc) I always feel like I shouldn’t chat to them because it’d be distracting; but I also naturally want to chat to them because it makes it less awkward, and I find their work interesting. The one time I got an ultrasound, my sonographer talked me through a lot of the process and the images on the screen because I happened to mention that I had a friend studying sonography (and possibly also because he was bored with my ultrasound showing nothing remarkable)

    January 13, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think I value chitchat only in moments of stress: it helps take the edge off. A bit like a drink but less harmful.

      January 13, 2017
      |Reply
  4. Grazie. Hai tutta la mia ammirazione ogni volta che leggo con quanto coraggio e razionalità hai gestito il tuo problema. E ora felice di leggere che è tutto a posto 🙂

    January 13, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Troppo gentile. Ma sono sicura che la maggior parte delle persone, trovandosi in situazioni analoghe, reagisce con molto piu’ coraggio di quanto creda.

      January 13, 2017
      |Reply
      • Me lo hanno detto e ho visto l’esempio. Un passo oltre è, secondo me, scriverlo e raccontarlo

        January 13, 2017
        |Reply
  5. winstonmoreton
    winstonmoreton

    Years ago I had a motor mechanic. He was German and I also had an old Ford Prefect motor car. Sometimes, quite often, the engine seemed to miss. I liken it now to the heart missing a beat. Anyway Hans, his real name, lifts the bonnet, pulls the throttle-cable and revs her up, listening professionally to the pistons crash and bang before quietly closing the bonnet um hood, He then gravely straightened to his full height and looks down at me as he was very tall and lean in blue overalls. In turn I braced myself to receive bad news; it would be off the road for a week while he sourced parts or, it would cost more to repair than it was worth. But no, I was relieved to hear him say, “it seems to be going OK and I can’t find anything. But If the motor does stop – bring it back and I’ll get it going again.” When I had a TIA six months ago and the doctors made up various stories about my condition I remembered Hans as I do now reading your post. The car was still going when I eventually sold it.

    January 13, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      That is just a perfect story.

      January 13, 2017
      |Reply
  6. Glad it was nothing. But I understand, for different reasons, your over-thinking. Peace and health for 2017–and hopefully much longer, my dear friend.

    January 12, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I am sure istinctively I knew it was nothing but the mind has a will of its own.

      January 13, 2017
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      You are so sweet. Thank you Fanney (love your name by the way).

      January 13, 2017
      |Reply

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: