Is Scanxiety Real?
For those impacted by cancer in some way, you may have heard the term “scanxiety” and may understand the tense emotions that surround it. A term that many professionals would do well to know.
When I look back at the first few months of diagnosis, the “testing phase” was some of the most traumatizing experiences. From the initial doctor visits to biopsies to the final confirmation spewing from the doctor’s mouth, this whole process stunts you into powerlessness.
The problem is that for most cancer survivors, the reality of “scan day” is overwhelming and it can paralyze your thoughts and emotions. PTSD will near its ugly head and it’s like reliving those first few days all over again. It’s already bad enough to deal with the “being in remission”.
Does Scanxiety have to be a thing too? Sorry- but it is a thing!
As a mom, my kids routinely go in for well checks or dentist visits. I quickly determined that I would treat Scan Day very similarly to a dentist appointment. I would assume that all is well but knowingly resolve that there will be uncomfortable prodding and probing. However, I haven’t neglected my daily “brushings” so, there is no reason to believe that I will have a “cavity”.
This worked for the initial days leading up to the appointment. Once the scans were over, the waiting period began and it brought with it a heavy, dark cloud of fear and disappointment. I would say, “I should have detoxed more.” “I didn’t exercise and drop that weight the doctor suggested I lose.” “Have I been taking enough supplements?” “ How much nutrition and I actually taking in?” Did I get exposed to something highly toxic and cancer-causing?”
The questions, the doubt, the fear and the anxiety proceeds the gloom and moodiness as the results await. The last thing anyone wants to hear is “recurrence”.
Suggestions to Relieve Your Scanxiety
Let’s just all agree that these emotions, as real as they feel, will pass. I have a few suggestions to help you get past this phase and over the hill of gloom to the reality that you are most likely FINE.
- Remember that this is normal. What you are feeling is absolutely normal and honestly, as a cancer patient it is your “new normal”. We are learning to cope with this incredibly important part of staying informed and educated about our health journey. More Info = Less Fear
- Meditate the heck out of the fear! Challenge yourself to quiet these thoughts and focus on the moment you have right now. Find a still and quiet place and pray, chant or journal.
- Sweat it out! You know what I mean- EXERCISE!
- Guided Imagery. These tools are similar to meditation, however you are being guided to imagine and focus your mind towards a positive outcome. Check out Rebecca Taylor Shaw I went to the Mermaid Empowerment Vacation in October of 2016. She literally changed my life!
- Throw yourself into a new book- specifically a series. Every time you get anxious, read a portion of it. If a book doesn’t seem to interest you, print out some motivational quotes or phrases to calm you during a peak anxious-thought outbreak.
- Hang out with your friends and family. Enjoy a sweet lunch picnic or coffee with that one really good friend. Play a board game with your kids or grandkids and get your mind distracted for the moment.
The main goal here is not to deny the feelings that come from scanxiety, but rather embrace them. As we journey through, it reminds us that we want to be here longer and we are fighting for another moment longer. Turn the anxiety and fear into an occasion for self-reflection and let it trigger a joy instead.
How do you handle anxiety and fear during your scans or doctor visits? Send your comments to heidi@happilyeveraftercancer.
Much love on your journey,
Breast Cancer Survivor -Stage 2, Diagnosed at 34 years old.