Like many people, I had no idea what radon was. In an effort to raise awareness, friends of ours who had high levels of radon gas in their house started loaning out their digital monitor so family and friends could test their homes. With nothing to lose, I signed up to borrow the device.

After a week of testing, I checked our results: 1066 Bq/m3. Our home levels were more than five times Health Canada’s guideline of 200 Bq/m3. I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t take me long to find out. The information I uncovered sent me into a tailspin.

We had lived in our home for nearly a decade, and I had worked from home for the majority of that time. Not only did I have long-term exposure to this potentially lethal gas, but our children had also been exposed to high concentrations almost every day of their lives.

We booked in for mitigation, but the first available appointment was an agonizing month away. I checked the radon monitor countless times a day, praying for a lower reading each time. When the numbers went up, so did my anxiety. Knowing our chances of not getting lung cancer exceeded our chances of getting it provided no relief. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely function. I ruminated about the past, and I worried about my family’s future. My anxiety consumed me.

I sought help from a psychologist who provided me with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies. Unfortunately, while the mitigation caused our radon levels to plummet, my anxiety remained unbearably high. After months of resistance, I finally agreed to try medication to calm my racing mind. I wish I had tried it sooner.

While my anxiety is somewhat controlled most days, certain triggers (especially health-related ones) can set me back. I focus on what is within my power: ensuring our family takes good care of our bodies by eating well, exercising regularly, seeing our doctor for regular checkups, and, for me, taking my medication. Sharing my story also empowers me. My hope is that by increasing awareness, I can help prevent others from reliving my story.

I remind myself daily it’s a marathon—not a sprint. I’m profoundly grateful I now have the ability to continue the race.

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