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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5824
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My best friend who is 30 is very ill with brain cancer. They

Customer Question

My best friend who is 30 is very ill with brain cancer. They gave her a year but she is hold out and we are on year two. Ever since she has gotten sick I have had many issues with cancer and death. I constantly feel my breasts and constantly find new lumps. I am 35 today and have been to my GP and OB/gyn back in July and August to have them feel me. Both said what they are feeling is normal. I have my mom check them on a weekly bases. I have seen a psycologist but can't afford to keep going. I have lost 30 pounds in 6 months and they are telling me I have decreased my breast size by 2 sizes and will feel alot more now that they have gone down. I feel my boobs for atleast 4 hours a day through out the day. I am on xanax and was on celexa and paxil but they were making me sick.
I need to stop obsessing about getting cancer and stop feeling myself. It is making me and my family crazy. The doctor said in July no mammogram is needed as everything is normal. And I have no family history. My oldest brother (55) just got diagnosed with prostate cancer. I have never lost anyone close to me and my best friend has 3 young kids like me. I am afraid of death and cancer scares the crap out of me.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It is very understandable that you have developed this fear. You are watching your best friend suffer and face death with a terrible form of cancer. Being told you are going to die at the age of 30 is one of the worst traumas someone faces. Being with her, you are going through the pain, sorrow and other emotions of the situation as well. This can cause extraordinary stress and you are reacting to that stress by developing fears.

Adding to your friend's situation is the fact that cancer and the fear of cancer is everywhere. There are breast cancer months with pink everywhere you look, famous people dying of cancer and news stories about cancer. With the frequency that we are exposed to the thought of cancer, everyone feels their chances are extremely high to have cancer. Now your friend as it and the reality of cancer is impacting you directly. The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can cause you to feel you are next, when in reality you are just fine.

To deal with your fear, first you need to understand it. Learning more about how trauma can impact you and the effect on your emotional wellbeing is the first priority. The more information you have, the better you can confront your fear and cope with it. Here are some resources to help:

Also, look at the facts. The chances of you getting cancer are small. Most of the breast cancer diagnosis are of older women who are well on in years. And even if you did get cancer, you have an excellent chance of recovery. Treatment is improving constantly for all types of cancer. Your friend's experience is rare.

Seek out support. Talk to others about your fears. Many people fear death, but they also weigh the chances of illnesses like cancer with the facts. They can help you find new ways to look at the situation and see that while cancer is common, most people either do not get it or are cured of it.

Talk to a therapist. Even if you did not have a fear of cancer, just going through your friend's illness is traumatizing enough for you to benefit from talking to someone. The therapist can help provide support and guidance on how to overcome your fears and enjoy your life again. To find a therapist, talk to your doctor about a referral. Or you can search on line at

I hope this has helped you,

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

But how do I stop myself from constantly feeling myself for lumps. I have talked to a psycologist and I can't afford to keep going to him as my insurance doesn't cover it.

My doctor and ob/gyn and my mom feel nothing and said its just fatty tissues from the weight loss. Why can't I get my mind to believe them?

My best friend (kate) has three small kids the same age as mine and I see what they are going through and I don't ever want my kids to have to go through that. But them seeing me this way isn't healthy either. All I want to do is either sleep or touch myself to feel for lumps. I am afraid but even my 5 year old is telling me to stop touching my boobs "nana says they are fine". Every month it is a different lump that I feel.

Should I continue to have people feel my boobs. My other friends are tired of hearing it and to trust my doctors. But can they not feel something one month and the next its there? Just need to get my mind to stop feeling myself any suggestions on that? As I believe I am creating more soreness. It is causing major problems with my relationship with my husband. Please give advise on how to stop this obsessing about lumps.

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Feeling yourself for lumps is a part of your fear. It is a way to help you feel more in control. The way to stop feeling how you do is to confront your fear. Learn more about trauma and the stress resulting from your friend's situation. Also, see this fear as a reaction to your friend's situation. You are reacting to watching your friend die. This is not about feeling for lumps as much as your fear and how out of control you feel.

Also, practice thought stopping. Each time you feel the need to feel for lumps, tell yourself to stop. You may feel anxiety when you do this, but you need to tell yourself the facts. You do not have cancer. And even if you did, you could cope. Let yourself go through the anxiety. You need to see that feeling for lumps is not helping you with your fear. It is perpetuating it. Also, use the materials I gave you. This will help you with your intrusive thoughts and provide a balance when you practice thought stopping.

If you cannot afford a counselor, try the local United Way. They can guide you to your local community mental health center where you can access low cost/no cost therapy. If you attend church, you can talk to your pastor about your fears or a counselor at your church.


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Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

You may also want to try this resource:

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne


If you found your answer helpful, please click ACCEPT. Even if you made a deposit, I am not paid for my work unless you accept. Thank you!


Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Do you think I need to be on medication other than the xanax? They told me I could take upto 3-4 a day, but I only take 1/2 in the am and 1/2 in the pm as when I was taking the full dose all I did was sleep.

I went throught the same thing when my father had prostate cancer but he is health as could be now at 83.

I just want to be able to function as I use too. This has just gotten worse in the last 6 months since Kate became completely emoble, blind, and had a trake put in. She can no longer talk either. How can this happen to a 30 year old. It just isn't fair. And I put it in my head that if it happened to her what makes me any different!?!? Her family is amazing but they are all broken, the kids included. My son who is 9 has started sleeping with me again as he is having a hard time with it also as her son is 9 also and they have been best friends since they were 8 months old. I can't help my son if I can't help myself.

I will see if they have that book at the local library but I feel I need to go get my lumps checked again. I no the doctors are right that I am fine but why can't I get that in my head!?!?

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I would like to continue working with you. Please click accept and I will work on your answering your new questions.


Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

You can certainly take more medication. But therapy would help you understand why you feel as you do and how to cope with it. Medication can help you in the short term to lessen your anxiety, but it cannot cure how you feel. Once you stop taking it, you will go back to feeling what you do now.

You are trying to control and uncontrollable situation. By going to the doctor all the time, you are allowing your fear to rule you. The doctor is never going to be able to reassure you enough because this is not about the lumps but your fear of losing control and getting sick. You are seeing your friend die a difficult death and you are traumatized by what you see. So you are attempting to control it by running to the doctor and by checking for lumps all the time.

Accepting that there are some things you cannot control is important. Everyone, everywhere must accept this everyday. No one is in control of their own lives. It is how you react to that fact that determines how much fear you have and how you live your life.

In seeking help, you may want to consider allowing your children to have therapy as well. They are reacting to their friends trauma as well as yours and may develop fears of their own. Therapy can help them cope better.