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Oncophobia is also very scary

St. Petersburg


Oncophobia is a pathological fear of having cancer. To different extent, three-quarters of people are affected by it.

In a severe case, oncophobia is obsessions and obsession with cancer, frequent health check-ups, selfdiagnosis thanks to the Internet, avoiding places that connected with oncology.

Self-portrait at the mirror, where I examine new moles

I don’t remember when it started. I began to notice moles on my body, which didn’t exist before. Again and again, in the most unexpected and most open places at my skin. Almost immediately, I confirmed myself in the obsessive thought that I had cancer, and became to find confirmations everywhere: a tumor on the finger; freckles; new moles; hair loss; general feeling of weakness.

My anxiety was increased by the bad habits – alcohol and smoking.

Сounting moles, I tried to remember how many of them

After a couple of months, I studied not a single dozen of forums. I remember who and in what century gave the name to the disease, understood what malignant moles look like, and for sure knew which food reduce to the risk of oncology: fish oil and cauliflower.

The thought of illness did not leave me, it caused horror and endless anxiety. I could not live fully. Visits to the doctor were put off over and over again.

I was left alone with my fear. Sometimes the phobia lets me go, and a couple of weeks you can live calmly, but the feeling of uncontrollable panic and stress returned with the double strength. I often examined myself and counted the moles, but anytime I lose count. “But this little one, did i count it for the last time? Maybe has it appeared recently?” I felt a sense of nausea when I read the word «melanoma». I was scared to touch my own back and damage the mole on it. Therefore, on my body there were untouchable zones.

A “normal” mole should not exceed 5mm

In the end, I have visited a dermatologist-oncologist, passed all the tests. The disease was not identified. All neoplasms are in order, and I am not at risk by age. Also, none of my close relatives suffered from cancer. But oncophobia can be no less terrible than oncology. Fear, like a tick, clings tightly, and lives in your head. It can not be driven away by tests and visits to the doctor.

Visualization of fears

Once, when the phobia had already sucked all the strength out of my body, I found out a fatalist inside of me, I was ready to accept any fate. I began to rethink the current and the past lives, and also to think more often about the people I will have to leave behind. I have settled humility and calm before accepting the thought about death. Gradually the quality of life began to improve, and oncophobia began to fade.

In many ways, this is the merit of my project. When I was in a hopeless web, I saw only one way to overcome my phobia is to record it while living in real-time, and conceptualize feelings in photos.

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Anna Gorokhovskaia

Anna is a documentary and art photographer from St. Petersburg. Born in the Far East of Russia. Graduated from Academy documentary photography and photojournalism… More »

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