Cancer Scare

18 Jun

Dear LetterBalm: My close friend has a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. Her doctor has suggested she get a blood test to see if she has the CA-125 marker found in ovarian cancer cells. So far, she’s refused, but she’s stressing out so much it’s affecting her work and her relationship with her boyfriend. It’s all she talks about. She calls me at all hours to obsess about it because the test isn’t perfect and can give false positives and negatives. Many of her friends are saying “Just get the test already!” Even her stepmother is weary of her daughter’s anxiety without any action, and they get along well. I understand my friend’s fears, but shouldn’t she want to know so she can take appropriate steps? How can I convince her?

–Tired of the Anxiety

Your question is perfectly logical, but logic doesn’t always apply when mortality is the issue. Ms. L.B. thinks your friend seems to have several conflicting scenarios going on. She’s justifiably terrified of the test because it might come up positive; then, what should she do? She is giving vent to her apprehension, which only fans emotional flames. And, she’s seeking advice ad nauseum to avoid making a decision and taking action. That all this is having an effect on her work and love life means things are getting too far out of hand. Take her for lunch (not on a work day), stay positive, empathetic and calm. Don’t be too chatty. Let her vent. When your friend has a quiet moment, say this:

Letitia, I can’t possibly know what you’re going through. You’re terrified about this blood test, with good reason. I’d be scared, too. But you have your family, Derrick, your friends, your doctor. Every one of us is on your side, pulling for you, and we’ll support you no matter what. Sweetie, you’re letting this get bigger than you, and it’s doing bad things for you and Derrick and for your job. You’re a smart woman, and you know what you have to do. The longer you delay, the more you’ll be consumed with not knowing the truth. You know this can’t go on. What would it take for you to agree to have the test? I can go with you. Your stepmom can go, and so can anyone you ask for. We love you and we’re here for you. Let’s make the appointment together, and we don’t have to talk to anyone about this, if you don’t want to.

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