Scanxiety-defined as anxiety felt by a cancer patient over an upcoming test or scan to evaluate the current state of disease. Yes, my vocabulary continues to grow as I continue the cancer journey. Although, I would have to say, that the anxiety is not over the test/scan itself, as that is an old experience. I know exactly what to expect when I go in for the scan. The real anxiety lies in getting the RESULTS of the scan.
My PET/CT Scan will be performed on July 5th and I will see my oncologist on July 9th to go over the results. I wish I could compare it to the anxiety I have felt in the past when going in for my yearly mammograms and blood work. However, after a stage IV diagnosis, the anxiety level is beyond anything I have experienced before. The first couple of years, after my initial diagnosis in 2001, I admit those bi-yearly mammograms and blood tests were not a walk in the park. My imagination would run away in the weeks leading up to the tests. I would recall every cough, sniffle, ache, pain, and twitch and imagine it was the monster slowly taking over every healthy cell in my body. But, after numerous clear mammograms and blood tests, the anxiety slowly faded away. It even got to the point when I regarded my yearly mammograms as no more serious than a cholesterol screening.
From this point on, scans will be every 3-6 months regardless of results. The level of anxiety is hard to put into words, but the frequency is what scares me the most. The stress of going through this 3-4 times per year is truly a foreign concept. I am sure it will become part of my new “normal” as time goes on, but, for now, it’s an adjustment, to say the least.
My first instinct is to be positive. I must believe that there will be no evidence of disease on this upcoming scan. But then, what if I’m wrong? Maybe I should expect the worst, then I can’t be caught off guard. What if there is progression? How will my treatment change? Will I be put on a new drug? Will I have to endure chemotherapy? More radiation? The questions and fears are endless. The most frustrating aspect, of course, is the lack of control. I know I cannot change the outcome of this scan, and ultimately, the outcome of the disease itself. Consciously, this is evident and easy to accept. Subconsciously, it haunts me every minute of the day and keeps me awake at night. All I can do, is pray.
In other news………….surgery recovery continues to be slow but sure. Shortly after my last post, I went in for some “touch up” surgery that vastly improved the cosmetic results but unfortunately, left me with an infection in part of my abdominal incision. Luckily, I recognized the signs of infection immediately and went into the doctor quickly. They cultured the drainage, switched my anti-biotic, and told me to return in 48 hours. It was then that the doctor decided to open the infected area to allow for drainage and quicker healing. I was told that the “wound” would need to be packed daily with material and kept clean and dry. They gave me the choice of coming into the office daily so that they could clean and pack the wound, or I could take on this task myself. Considering it costs forty dollars each time I walk through the doors of the office, I decided I could handle this on my own. It was pretty easy, although the pain, which had almost completely disappeared, did return for several days. I found the magic cocktail of two advil and 1/2 a percocet twice daily, was perfect as it controlled the pain yet allowed me to function. At my appointment on Monday, Dr. K said that everything looked great and he would see me in a month. The wound is still open, but healing nicely, and no longer requires packing.
As I write this post, I am watching the news and seeing the horrible images of homes burning in the numerous wildfires across the state of Colorado. I can only imagine the pain of one’s entire life going up in flames. My husband has just returned from one wildfire in which 257 homes were lost and now he is working on another one after only two days off. The devastation is unbelievable. It is a reminder of how precious life is and how quickly it can change. Please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers.
I believe that having these mandatory tests 4 times a year has to be like the proverbial sword of Damocles. And your reaction is completely understandable. But I also think that it must be much harder for someone who needs to feel she is in control. As one ages one begins to understand better that it is kind of a fiction to think one can truly be in control. Real maturity begins when one realizes that it is only a mental construct. That although we can plan, reason, prepare — we are really not in control. That the only control we can possess is the ability to face each new challenge with courage, learn to adapt, and to accept the limitations the situation brings, You have demonstrated you can do that, You are ahead of the game.