Standing in a house of mirrors, I see myself all wavy in one mirror, tall and thin in another. In yet another, I have a tiny head and absurdly wide everything else. And, there’s actually one or two in which I look pretty good.

Distorted MirrorCancer is that way. It might not make us look much different on the outside while it’s getting started inside of us, but it certainly does a number on how we feel. Before I was diagnosed, I knew with 100 percent certainty that a little twinge in my eye was not cancer. That my sore knee was due to the way I was sitting or moving and not cancer. I knew that when I felt tired, it was because I was tired and not because of cancer.

Now, while I try to be reasonable and remember all the reasons why this and that are probably not cancer, there is always some doubt, and I wonder, “What if this time it IS cancer?”

As I write the first draft of this blog, my eyes feel out of whack, the back of my neck has a weird feeling, and I am feeling lethargic and tired. Am I concerned about any or all of those being due to cancer? Yes. Do I truly think any of those things are cancer? No. I’m just getting over pink eye, I had surgery to remove a tumor from the back of my neck last fall and think the nerves are starting to kick in again, I did not sleep well last night, and I am hungry.

There are logical reasons for these things. Reasons they are not cancer. They just appear that way to the part of my mind that is paranoid about going through the treatments and worry and all-of-that again. Like a house of mirrors, it can become difficult to see or know what is real and what is not.

Actually, the lethargy and tiredness are due to cancer in a roundabout way. You see, the other thing about a house of mirrors is that it is a popular setting in suspense or horror movies. Not just because you can’t tell what is real, but also because sometimes you can’t see what else is there.

Like the new tumor just found in my breast. I was not concerned, had no symptoms, and never thought it was a possibility. I was not even too worried when I got called back for an ultrasound after my routine mammogram. I only started to worry when the radiologist came back with the ultrasound tech to rescan an area or two. A biopsy confirmed it. I have a PET scan later today and cannot eat anything for 6 hours before. Ergo, the lethargy and tiredness are from poor sleep and hunger, which are due to a scan needed because of cancer.

In a house of mirrors, not everything is as it appears. But, sometimes, it is. I don’t like this game.

Share Your Thoughts

Does every ache, pain, twinge or symptom make you worry it's cancer? How did cancer change your perspective on your overall health? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Amy Koch grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and, after a fair amount of traveling, living and working in other places in the United States and abroad, she has been living in Milwaukee since 2005. She has a B.A. in international studies, an M.S. in curriculum and instruction and various teaching licenses. She speaks fluent Spanish and functional Japanese. After working as a bilingual elementary school teacher in Milwaukee for eight years, she is now an instructional coach specializing in reading instruction. A lump in her left thigh in late summer/early fall of 2014 turned out to not be a "nerve or muscle problem" that just needed time and rest. She was diagnosed with liposarcoma in October 2014 and started chemotherapy in November. After chemo, neutropenia, radiation, surgery, more tumors and subsequent treatments, she thinks she is cancer free as of November 2015.

Kimberly Polzin

I love what you wrote Amy. You have a talent for sharing your thoughts in such a way that I have a better understanding about what you are going through physically and emotionally. I continue to think of you and keep you in my prayers.

Amy Koch

Thank you, Kim. Knowing I have such deep and sincere support from people like you help me be able to share so freely through these posts.

Kimberly Polzin

I wish I could do more to help you through your fight with cancer. By reading your posts at least feel better as you trust me enough to share your story in such an intimate way. Love you!

Peg Grafwallner

Thank you, Amy, for this heartfelt post. I am grateful that you have taken all of us along on this journey. Cancer is scary, no doubt about it; and all of us are affected by it. However, having the conversation makes it less frightening and us more powerful. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer 29 years ago, we didn't talk about the 'c' word. It was the elephant in the room; and we allowed it power by never talking about it. When my brother developed cancer nearly 15 years ago, we talked about it and met it head on. Now, we're not only talking about it, we're talking about everything associated with it and are more determined than ever to kick its ass. We've come a long way, baby!

Amy Koch

Thank you, Peg. Meeting cancer head on is part of my intent with this blog. Talking through it is cathartic for me, hopefully helps others know a little more of what I or their other loved ones are going through, AND hopefully will help anyone reading any of these blogs if they ever hear those horrible words ("you have cancer") in their doctor's office one day. It won't change that they've heard the words but it can help, I hope, how they react and feel after hearing those words.