I walked out of the bedroom this morning to Frank sitting at the table, reading his tablet … with his light therapy lamp on. “Oh oh”, I thought … ‘the past couple of days of him saying he wasn’t feeling himself was more than him being ‘tired”. I’d bought the lamp last winter, after a few episodes of him ‘not feeling well’ and the why of that is in the telling of this story …
Frank has an anxiety disorder of some type … from conversations I’ve had with his elderly Auntie, who often cared for him when he was a little boy, I am fairly sure he had it as a child. He has huge gaps in his childhood memories and he started school late – no explanation forthcoming from anyone in his family as to why that was – when you’re the second eldest of eight, in an old time farming family, you kind of get lost in the crowd. However, through most of our married life, except for occasions when anyone would experience angst, any adult manifestation of an anxiety disorder has remained hidden … until fairly recently.
Four and a half years ago, Frank put his back out doing a renovation … put it out so badly he could barely move. I managed to get him to our guest bedroom and that was it – he totally froze up. I couldn’t get him comfortable with any of the over the counter meds we had in the house so I decided to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital … he isn’t a tall man but he is a big man – strong and husky. There was no way I could move him to drive him there.
At the hospital he underwent a CT scan … they found there was nothing critically wrong with his back (he has a history of osteoporosis). However, the Dr commented the radiologist had noted he’d detected a misshapen kidney and Frank should follow up with his family doctor for further tests. I misheard and thought he said ‘missing’ and kind of laughed it off as not possible – how does one ‘lose’ a kidney unintentionally – which means I didn’t worry too much and didn’t go into any type of panic mode.
Subsequently Frank’s back recovered – rest and drugs worked as they had before. Once he was back on his feet, he went to see the Dr about the kidney situation (who clarified the descriptor as ‘misshapen’ :>)). The doc said he would schedule an ultrasound … except he didn’t and then went on vacation … so we were a month and a half further down the road before the Dr was back and Frank visited him again. The ultrasound was finally scheduled for another 2 months out. Just before his appointment (now June), it was cancelled and pushed further out into the summer. The back issue happened in March and we were nearing the end of Aug when he finally went in for the ultrasound … and he went by himself as I was getting ready for an art show. When he came home he was white faced … and I was instantly reminded of the time he went for his prostate biopsy results by himself (and why we’ve now agreed he will no longer go to the doctor unaccompanied when tests are done or results are due). I’m not sure if it was the radiology tech or the radiologist himself, who asked Frank after the ultrasound was done, if he had a follow up Dr appointment scheduled. When Frank replied yes – he would be seeing his doctor in a couple of weeks, he was told “you might want to see about getting in sooner” … and down the circling swirl of despair he went.
We couldn’t get in to see the doctor right away so after 5 days of worrying and wondering, I finally took him to the hospital emergency where the grim news was delivered … kidney cancer, tumour the size of a softball, specialist had been consulted, emergency appointment scheduled, surgery would be required. Our heads were swimming … and so on it went. By end of September Frank was recuperating from a radical nephrectomy – his entire left kidney removed. The good news … the ‘luck’ if you will … it was kidney cancer but only one kidney was affected and it is also one of the more treatable cancers ‘if caught early’. Usually there is no definitive way of detecting kidney cancer ‘early’ … by the time one feels any physical symptoms, the cancer is usually in a more critical stage. If caught early, it is most often by chance. Due to his back injury and tests for that, Frank’s cancer had been caught early enough that he had a good prognosis for long term recovery … a lucky man!
However, someone forgot to tell his mind how lucky he was … the next year was a tough one … he never seemed to ever ‘feel well’. He would often complain about a sensation that would overcome him and leave him feeling ill. He also came down with various physical ailments that never seemed to have any good explanation. Finally after a year of follow up kidney tests and good results, he seemed to fully recover except for the occasional episode of this ‘not feeling well’.
A couple of years post the surgery I finally clued in to two things. First, any subsequent episodes of the ‘not feeling well’ or physical discomfort seemed to correspond with his by now bi annual checkups with the urologist … where, a month or so prior, he would have to undergo a CT scan, bloodwork and chest xray. Second, how he described this ‘not feeling well’ coming on sounded like his body was flooding itself with whatever hormonal chemicals an anxiety attack might trigger, leaving him feeling physically tired and nauseous. He, however, would balk at my layman diagnosis, saying he didn’t feel anxious so it couldn’t be anxiety. I continued to pay close attention the timings and confirmed again the following year, about a month or so before said tests were due to commence, he wouldn’t feel well but after his visit with the specialist he’d be back to himself again.
Yes, we’ve had conversations with our Dr about it … she said it is common for cancer survivors to have anxiety type disorders plague them following recovery and the anxiety may show up in various ways, including physical pain and discomfort. At his last appointment (after tests for an unexplained pain in his side) she said to continue using light therapy when needed and if the episodes got stronger, longer or out of sync with post cancer checkup routines, to come back and see her.
Early this week, noticing the standing orders sheet for his bloodwork pinned to the refrigerator door, and realizing it is now nearing end of Aug, I unthinkingly asked him ‘do you need to schedule a CT scan this time’ to which he responded ‘no, I only need to have bloodwork done’ … and damn it! … two days later here we are today.
Although we subs like to think of our Dom(me)s as our pillars of strength, there are times when life gets in the way and we need to be the ones providing strength, care and support. It’s my turn to step up during the next month or so whenever Frank needs me … and when necessary, we’ll put our D/s on the backburner until he’s back to feeling himself again.
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