Recently, I was asked a very interesting question, “Does having cancer make you paranoid? Seems to me every little ache and pain would scare you to death.”

I never really thought much about it, but yes, I do get a somewhat paranoid about the feelings in my body. Actually, in all honesty, there are times I get very scared.

However, I am also like most paranoid people and find that mostly these aches and pains do not have anything to do with any of my cancers. Right now, my back is sore and I have a minor pain in my left side seemingly coming from the surgical site from the kidney cancer. The back pain is very close to the pelvic area, a potential site for a bone metastasis from the prostate cancer.

I know from experience and prior conversations with my doctors that both of these pains are probably related to my arthritis and a surgical “leftover.” These discomforts could also just an the aches and pains that accompany my getting older.

I had a period of coughing resulting from an upper respiratory infection, caused by a rhinovirus (sounds serious, but it means I had a cold). I developed a sharp pain in my lower right rib and decided that it was a prostate cancer bone met (the lower ribs are an excellent site for a prostate cancer met). What was really going on, I bruised the rib coughing. I knew that it was a bone bruise, but the thoughts of metastases kept running through my head. I would call that being paranoid, wouldn’t you?

These pains can be anything. So, before calling my oncologist I decided to try an Ibuprofen instead. It worked, in a short while the pain was all gone, cured! It was a lot easier than chemotherapy and a lot cheaper.

Then there is the issue of my headaches. Are they brain tumors or just plain vanilla headaches? My emotions say brain tumor, but my brain says just a headache. So far, I have survived these tumors, I mean head aches.

So, am I paranoid, yes, I am. Nevertheless, I have learned to control it because too much paranoia can wreck my life, ruin my attitude and make it unpleasant for anyone else to be around me.

However, if you too find yourself at your oncologist’s office, complaining of some mystery pain that turns out it is nothing, do not be embarrassed. It is just part of the whole experience of being a cancer survivor.

Joel T Nowak, MA, MSW