May 26, 2023

Cancer and ANXIETY


If you’ve read Everything Changes, you know the saga of my sudden onset cancer claustrophobia.   Since cancer, sitting on an airplane feels to me like the Star Wars trash compactor scene.  I’ve chalked it up to either post-traumatic stress disorder, or the anxiety that can be a common side effect of the high doses of thyroid hormones I’m on.

Over the past couple of years xanax has become my flying friend.  Without xanax I could not have flown to my San Francisco surgery, checks ups at Memorial Sloan Kettering, or to see my friends and family.  I also only fly Southwest because they are super sweet and let me sit in the front row where I can see the door.

But something totally odd has happened: with no explanation, my raging claustrophobia has quite suddenly simmered down.  I’ve flown xanax-free on my past four trips to speaking engagements and book parties.

This past week I was speaking in Pittsburgh.  I woke up one morning on the trip and in that limbo morning mind state of half-dreaming, I confused being wheeled into surgery and getting anesthesia with boarding a plane and flying.  For just a moment, the two were the same.  I started freaking out, but my phone rang and woke me up.  It was amazing to see my two fears come so head to head in my mind.

I am thankful that my mind is chilling out.  And, I’m really curious about the mystery of what has made this go away.  If I knew, I’d share my secret.  Have you developed any fears or anxieties since your diagnosis, or as the result of any other illness or trauma?  How have you coped with it?  Has yours ebbed and flowed?  Ever suddenly receded like mine?  Does anxiety ever hinder your daily activities?

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