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A Panic Attack Saved My Life

Updated on January 14, 2020
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Linda writes articles on a variety of genre's; poetry, recipes, mental health, health & wellness and personal stories about her life.

Anxiety was my biggest symptom of lung cancer

Many of you may already know I'm a lung cancer survivor after sharing it with my wonderful writing family. I've often been asked how I figured out I had it, because there is usually no symptoms until it is too late. I was one of the lucky ones that found out in time to save my life. Here is my story...

When I started to notice symptoms

It was the beginning of February 2004 when things started to get weird. My anxiety was off the charts and I ended up in the emergency room a couple different times. The first trip to ER, they gave me something to calm down and help me sleep. A week prior to this hospital stay, I was anxious, wasn't sleeping, and pacing. I couldn't, for the life of me, sit down and relax. Finally, my family couldn't watch me suffer anymore. My older brother (Bless his soul) drove me to the nearest emergency Room around 2 A.M. When the medication they gave me finally kicked in, (it took a while)I slept for the next 18+ hours. Upon discharge from this episode, the Dr. referred me to see a psychiatrist to find out what was going on. I must say, I wasn't real surprised by the diagnosis, which was "anxiety" and "depression." This first trip to ER and the extreme anxiety I had been struggling with the past couple of weeks, was all part of a puzzle that would soon reveal itself. Read on...

It had been about a week since my scary trip to ER. I wasn't pacing anymore and was sleeping pretty normal since starting the anti-depressant. I felt like things were starting to look up, which I welcomed this with open arms.

Anxiety brings me back to ER

It was the third week in February, and things on this particular day seemed pretty normal. It was about 7 P.M. and I was relaxing on my couch, watching a Minnesota Twins baseball game. I made myself one of my favorite snacks; celery with cream cheese. From out of nowhere it seemed, came a blast of that frightening anxiety. I stood up and walked around my apartment. I tried some calming techniques so the anxiety wouldn't build. I was doing some positive self-talk, rubbing my feet into the floor to ground me, and trying to focus on the baseball game on t.v. Nothing was working, and my anxiety started getting worse. I was now having heart palpitations and other unsettling symptoms. I was convinced I was having a heart attack. What do I do when I think I'm having a heart attack? I call my best friend and twin sister. History repeating itself, I dialed her number and said, "Laura, can you bring me to ER, I think I'm having a heart attack." God Bless her never ending patience. I had experienced episodes like this in the past, which always turned out to be bouts of anxiety. She picked me up at my apartment and drove me straight to ER. I adamantly told the triage team, I was sure I was having a heart attack, and needed immediate medical attention. The normal procedure to assess for this:: X-Ray and Electrocardiogram. Laura and I are waited for word on my test results. If you've never experienced deeply connected twins, waiting on test results, I can tell you, it wasn't pretty. I'm sure we looked like two insane women, hugging, and holding on for dear life. Finally, here comes the doctor with the results...

Doctor tells me curious results from x-ray

Noticing my sister and I were coming unglued, the woman doctor spoke in a calm and comforting manner. She told me that my electrocardiogram looked great and I had not suffered from a heart attack. I gave a big sigh of relief and prepared to hear what I have heard in the past; that It was a panic attack or extreme anxiety. Instead, she said the x-ray revealed a spot on my right lung. l was confused, and asked her what she thought it could be. She explained that in Minnesota, many people get spots on their lungs because of mold that grows here. She said if this was the case, they would have me take an anti-biotic, and that's usually the end of it. She asked if I was a smoker- I felt relieved and happy to say that I had never been a smoker. She assured me, it would be rare for a non-smoker of forty-one to have lung cancer. She suggested I follow-up with my primary physician the following week. I walked out of that hospital feeling confident this was just a little bump in the road.

Biopsy Results

Unfortunately, on March 1st of 2004, I received the phone call that no one wants to get. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this Linda, but you have lung cancer." I repeated back his scary words to be sure I heard it right. The next thing I remember was hearing a loud thud and finding my twin sister passed out on the floor.

I will always be grateful my body spoke to me during those early weeks in February; especially the night they found the spot via the X-Ray. My body was telling me things weren't right, and warning me. I will never complain about the panic attack that saved my life.

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© 2010 Linda Rogers


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