Long time no see!
This was the first cat GIF that made me laugh, after looking through many, hence I chose it, don't ask me why I find it so funny I just do.
In the midst of Italian-exam season here in Rome I've not had much time to write any blog posts, but I've only got one left now and a touch of spare time on my hands!
I'd like to talk about a big issue in the cancer-community, that I've heard coined as 'scanxiety' among patients. I suppose anyone with any kind of medical scan approaching can empathise with this kind of anxiety, but for a cancer patient each single scan holds so much importance, and can drastically impact their future.
Scanxiety defines as:
Anxiety and worry that accompanies the period of time before undergoing or receiving the results of a medical examination (such as MRI or CT scan).
Scanxiety for me and why are scans so scary?:
For me personally, that 'period of time' defines as around a few weeks-1 month before my next scan (bearing in mind I have scans every 3 months).
It varies in intensity - some days the thought of my upcoming scan won't cross my mind, other days it's all I can think about. You think about all the possible outcomes of the scan, and all the possible consequences of these outcomes, all the while hoping that the results will be positive but never really believing they will be. You already know you have cancer, it's not like going in for your first diagnosis scan for which the chances of them finding something malicious are actually quite low. It's going into a doctor's room knowing there is a high chance you'll be receiving some bad news. Possibly being told your cancer has come back or has grown. For many cancer patients scans are ultra important in terms of checking whether treatment is working or not. Hearing that your cancer is shrinking or is growing are two very very different, important pieces of information that could change your future. Scans are a big deal - and they're terrifying.
How it impacts your life:
When I'm going about my daily life, and planning the next few months, I get scanxiety - what if my scan goes badly and my plans are ruined? Is there any point in planning anything until I know? More recently I've been worried that my year abroad in Rome will be scuppered, worried to the point that I'd just rather not have the scan and not know if something was wrong until a later date, which unfortunately isn't an option. The darned thing about cancer is that it hits when it wants, and doesn't give a hoot about your life plans, and you're better off catching it as soon as possible.
Thinking about cancer and your scans and everything is so so distracting, and can often take away from daily activities or responsibilities. I know especially at first I found it impossible to concentrate on anything, the fear of my scans occupying so much of my mind that studying or doing anything other than thinking about them was a massive struggle. Sleeping was a massive issue, because the anxious thoughts would keep you awake at night, and then you'd be sleep-deprived and the next day would be another unproductive day. It is really like a vicious cycle like any other form of anxiety, that if not managed well could well turn into something more. Thankfully, I'm a lot better at managing it now, and a lot more open about my concerns than I originally was, which helps a lot (and my sleep is okay woohoo)!
Keep calm and carry on?
I follow so many brave cancer patients on social media, all of which somehow remain so positive the majority of the time, but all of which experience scanxiety. It is only natural. To be scared about entering again into that hell that is receiving awful news and having to go through that fear again, more treatments, and even more scans, is a natural human response. All you can do is seek comfort in the fact that you're not alone in the process, and in the meantime leading up to your scan (this is what I tend to do, anyway) try to distract yourself, keep yourself busy, live your life as best you can, and prepare to celebrate because, you never know, it may be good news!! If you're not at a busy point in the year (exams, work etc.), then organise to hang out with friends and family and surround yourself with love and things that make you happy. Or if you are feeling particularly panicky, do things to calm you down, like yoga, or listening to calming music while having a bubble bath (whatever floats your boat!).
A final note is also to say that scanxiety is absolutely not exclusive to the one receiving the scan.
I have my own mixture of feelings, both positive and hopeful, and worried and slightly terrified, but so do my family, and close friends. Seeing anybody you love go through any kind of disease, or anything that causes them pain or sadness or discomfort really, is the worst. Therefore leading up to an important hospital appointment they are also going to be feeling incredibly anxious, and that too is OK. It's all just another part of this whole cancer thing, that really sucks, and effects even those who've been in remission for years and years. I believe it's another one of those things that isn't really spoken about as a 'side-effect' of cancer, or any threatening disease, because it effects mental health - but it is a significant side-effect. And it is something that could be alleviated even a little if it were just spoken about a bit more.
Thanks so much for reading!
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Until next time,
p,s, that cat GIF still makes me laugh...