Anxiety & Cancer

All that Hollywood can throw at us today in the form of computer-generated monsters and demons is nothing compared to the world’s true demon called cancer and all its forms, whether the demon of breast cancer for women or prostate cancer for men or all the non-gendered cancers.

The cancer demon is certainly real. It creates months in chemo. It takes lives. We all know about these stories.

Yet, beyond this, few discuss the hidden subtext of cancer.

This is our culture’s anxiety about cancer.

It is as if we all live within a grand Las Vegas casino of chance and our number might be up at any time.

The feeling creates anxiety in society.

Everyone recognizes cancer as the great disease of our times.

Yet, few recognize the anxiety that comes with the fear of cancer.

In effect, this anxiety is like some great black-hole vampire sucking the enjoyment of life out of people, pulling their thoughts away from the present and making them worry about the future and this great cancer vampire that roams the world. Will they be the next one it will pursue? The thought process seems somewhat similar to pulling the slot machine lever in Las Vegas. Everything seems so much a matter of chance.

With cancer, life seems a matter of chance.

It is this element of chance that creates so much anxiety in the world. Certainly, the technology of social media and the events of the world cause anxiety. Yet behind all of this is that grand, lurking anxiety of cancer so much greater than all these other anxieties.

* * *

Of course the grand goal today in the cancer battle is to reduce deaths from cancer. Yet there is a powerful, hidden, subtext to this battle. This subtext is the reduction of anxiety caused from the fear of cancer. It is a fear all contemporary life lives under, especially contemporary American life.

While studies and cookies survey American consumers on all types of things, few attempt to relate cancer anxiety to American mood, goals and attitudes to political, economic and social actions. In effect, what is the relationship of cancer anxiety to the mood, the collective unconsciousness (as Jung might say) of America?

The big question is the relationship of cancer anxiety on the American mind and mood. Obviously, cancer takes a terrible toll of people. Yet, what about the anxiety of cancer? This is a hidden, unstudied topic. It is a large question. The great unseen elephant in the room of our discussion.

In effect, what is the relationship of cancer anxiety to the mood, attitudes, actions of American culture? If this anxiety could be reduced, might there be a new attitude in America? This is an important question that gets little “air time” today.

* * *

In a general way, the older one gets, the more chance one has to get cancer. Of course, this is not to dismiss terrible childhood cancers and cancers that strike all age groups. Yet, in general one can make this statement. Cancer anxiety is greatest in older people. Women worry about breast cancer as they get colder. Men worry about prostate cancer as they get older.

In this sense, one might say that as people age, their fear and anxiety of getting cancer increases.

This anxiety pulls much attention from the older leaders (elders) of culture. At a time when culture needs to hear their wisdom, they are often locked in battle with the great anxiety demon of cancer. As we have noted, anxiety is a cruel master allowing little thoughts on anything but anxiety.

The fear of breast cancer in older women is an ever-present tapestry of modern life. And, the fear of rising PSA levels in older men is something all aging men live with. This PSA number monster never is stable. It simply grows with every year of life.

How much does the anxiety and fear of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men pull life from older individuals and from the collective mood of America? How much does it distract the elder, leaders, of our culture from hope in the future to fear of the future?

* * *

Having OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) I feel like some early warning radar on this map of cancer anxiety. I worry about many things. Cancer is the greatest. I know that anxiety about cancer can be a cruel demon for those with OCD. One spends so much time consumed with thinking about the fear of cancer. These thoughts are not about positive feelings of hope and life but rather negative feelings of despair and death.

For years I have had high PSA levels and the anxiety about this has been to me like a type of great black hole, pulling energy, thoughts and life into it. Leaving little for the enjoyment of the present day. It is a cruel demon for those with OCD and about anxiety about cancer such as rising PSA levels.

It is relentless monster. So far, my fears have proven to not be warranted. Yet, this seems to simply increases my fear that my luck has run its course. One can only be lucky so many times in Las Vegas on a slot machine. Finally, one’s luck is up.

For OCD me, the more one escapes from cancer, the more everything is a chance-like Las Vegas universe and one’s “luck” is finally up.

I’ve been lucky so many times in the past.

But all this luck means that I’m bound to be unlucky soon.

This is the OCD way of seeing things.

* * *

Everyone agrees that cancer is the great medical challenge of our time.

Yet few admit cancer anxiety is one of the great psychological challenges of our times.

Yes, cancer takes lives. But anxiety about cancer takes far more lives.

What a different place America would be if cancer anxiety could be channeled into positive thoughts of hope and creativity. We feel the answer is in our politics of Democrats and Republicans. Of nationalism and globalism.

Yet the real answer might be in lessening the greatest anxiety of our modern world.

The anxiety over the fear of cancer.

In the end, one has to wonder if this is a challenge for our psychotherapists or our doctors?

Or, simply, us alone?

 

 

 

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