I’ve seen lots of people going through cancer mention scanxiety – that anxiety that comes before scans, and I’ve thought “yep, there’s anxiety around scans.” I could identify some parts causing the anxiety, but somehow what we’re experiencing seemed bigger than the list of potential concerns that quickly pops into mind.
Throughout my life there have been plenty of things I didn’t want to do, that caused some anxiety, but knew I must go ahead and push on through.
I remember so many times getting to the dentist office a bit early and sitting in the parking lot feeling a little sick to my stomach thinking “I could just leave now, no one is here to stop me, I don’t wanna go in.” In those moments, I used to call my Grandma and just chat. Somehow that helped. Sadly, she passed away back in 2008 so I haven’t been able to do that for quite awhile. Each time, I took a deep breath, gathered some courage and went on in. Back then I probably didn’t even identify it as anxiety -but looking back, it sure was.
And then, the blood tests required to check for infection following a traumatic event were pretty awful for me. I didn’t like having to get stuck with a needle, and I really hated what they were testing for. Tears often flowed about those experiences.
Those are just 2 examples of times that I can vividly remember dealing with some anxiety about an unwelcome event.
But, somehow facing upcoming scans with my now ten year old daughter is different. Yes, we’re dealing with anxiety, but it’s bigger than that. Her 3 month post-treatment check-up, lab work, and scans are scheduled for next week.
That sums it up. The inconvenience and discomfort of the scan isn’t what has us all a bit out of whack right now. It’s the knowing why it’s happening and what we’re looking for.
She’s not excited about getting the IV, and there are lots of things she’d rather be doing than laying still for an hour in a loud machine. But, I think because that’s the known part it’s not the problem. The concerning part is that they’re doing these scans to see if cancer has returned where it was before in her cheek, or if has reappeared in her lungs. Sure, we believe that the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation were effective. Awful, but effective. But, we know that others who have gone before us have had a relapse or recurrence – their cancer didn’t stay gone. So we check.
And, no, we don’t have a reason to think it’s come back, but who among us ever thinks it’s there in the first place? See, once the unimaginable has happened, it’s not so hard to imagine it happening again.
So, scanxiety is real for us right now.
It may look different depending on the day or which of us is experiencing it, but it’s part of the current reality.
For me, it includes wondering how I’m how supposed to respond if the IV process goes anywhere near as horribly as last time. Wondering how to keep us distracted between the MRI process at one place and ultrasound a few hours later back at the Children’s Hospital -all while Joanna is wishing she could eat or drink something. NPO is a new phrase for us -but it means nothing to eat or drink. In this case for 8 hours before a scan scheduled for 10:45. Lately our girl has been hungry, hungry, and eating her way through the morning. So that will be a small added stress that day. Wondering what the provider will say about the scans when we see her later that day. Wondering if Joanna’s favorite lab person will be available to do the blood draw (2nd “poke” of the day). Wondering if we’ll find out how close her immune system is to back to normal. Though she looks pretty healthy right now and her beautiful hair is coming back, things aren’t as they were before, and her body is still recovering from chemo. Maybe not visibly, but definitely still happening.
Just because treatment (aside from a weekly antibiotic) is done and our schedule may be normal and we may not have much to say about the cancer doesn’t mean it’s not still very much a part of things. Unfortunately we don’t just get to go from bell ringing straight back to “normal” pre-cancer life. There’s lots going on under the surface. Most days we’re dealing with it really well. But, it’s there, and sometimes it’s the really, really there.
So, instead of focusing all the parts we can’t control, we’re putting a lot of attention into the Girl Scout cookie sale that starts today. We’re having fun with school work and Girl Scout badge work. We’re really enjoying an out of town friend being in town and getting to spend time with her at the zoo.