Hypochondriasis meets actual illness?
February 8, 2014 3:42 PM Subscribe
How do you manage medical anxiety when it looks like it might be something?
posted by mermily to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a life-long terror of medical environments, which has resulted in me not having had routine medical care in a really long time (like since high school and I am a few days away from 31 right now). I have had some isolated medical appointments (dermatologist for acne, urgent care to figure out why I'd been sick for two weeks, things like that), but being in doctors' offices often results in me hyperventilating and generally embarrassing myself. Add to this, I am sporadically a pretty bad hypochondriac and have at various points thought I might have been stricken with a grave disease. Like in high school I thought I might have had a brain tumor (which was a sinus infection). I wonder if on some level, I thought that worrying irrationally about unlikely illness would seem to stave away actual illness.
Anyway, I am going through a health scare currently where the feedback I'm getting from doctors is more like, "Yeah, we really need to look into this ASAP" rather than "Oh, probably normal, we see this a lot" and I'm not exactly sure how to manage my anxiety. Basically, I went to the CVS Minute Clinic a little over a week ago because I had a lumpy place on my neck under my jaw, which I had assumed was normal-ish lymph node swelling following a cold that I just got over. The lady there sort of looked at it curiously and said it looked an awful lot like mumps and seemed to think it was cool because she'd never seen mumps before. She referred me to Urgent Care and they thought it might be an infection of my parotid/salivary gland and ordered antibiotics and told me to suck on lemons until the swelling went down. It didn't go down at all and when I went back in the new doctor seemed to think it was a good idea to go into overdrive testing to rule out lymphoma and I got kind of uptight because he was throwing out comments like, "Yeah, usually they get you in pretty quickly when it's something this suspicious" which sort of throws my anxiety siren into action. He ordered a CT scan and called me when the results came in, which basically looks like some kind of mass and he said on the plus side it has some cyst-like properties, and on the minus side, it apparently looked "perigenious" instead of homogeneous which means it had different shades of gray on it [ :( ] He sounded like he didn't really know what it was and said it could either be some kind of infection or a lymphoma. I am finding myself getting very tense during the parts of this which involve being in an actual doctor's office or getting needle sticks (immature) so I asked him if he could prescribe some anti anxiety medication for the actual procedure parts (which he did, .5 mg Atavan).
All other relevant details about my health situation (sorry, this is a lot):
- the thing in my neck is pretty large, like a few inches and you can see it bulging out and it doesn't hurt at all. The region is apparently either on, in or under my parotid/submandibular gland and underneath my kerotid(sp?) artery. nothing is painful. it's only on one side and seems to have appeared out of the blue (apart from it coming after a cold)
- They did bloodwork (CBC and amytase). My CBC was normal and the amytase which apparently measures something my salivary gland is doing, was high normal.
- I am in ship shape in terms of outward health and I don't have fevers or night sweats and my spleen is normal sized and the lymph nodes in my abdomen aren't swollen and I am not itchy or anything like that. I am training for a 5k and carrying on like a normal 30 year old woman. I don't smoke.
I have done the CT scan and on Monday I have an appointment with an otolaryngologist who is apparently doing a biopsy and I guess possibly a mysterious other battery of tests. I guess I am looking for advice in terms of how to manage my anxiety. I am aware on some level that cancer scares are sort of normal and I guess I feel some sort of guilt about being so clutchy about my personal mortality given that I'm just one of many mortal people and people deal with stuff like this and worse all the time. Also, I know that there's a good possibility this could still be nothing at all. But I feel really bad and I'm having a hard time being in the state of not knowing. I wanted general advice on managing anxiety, particularly in pre-diagnosis type situations. And also, I guess part of the reason I put all of that specific info is I wanted to see if anyone had any insight into the situation but I know YANMD applies etc. etc.