Keeping Scanxiety at Bay
Updated: Feb 29, 2020
Heyhey! Happy December and Happy Festivities to you all.
If you are a regular visitor of this blog you may have noticed the wonderful new refurb! I have given my website a makeover, something more professional-looking. But don't worry! The strawberries and pears may be gone but the same old fun-loving Maddie is still here to provide her wisdom.
I have been quite a busy bee lately, interning at Sarcoma UK, which has been incredible and a story for another day (keep an eye out for their next E-news issue).
I have been so busy, in fact, that I almost completely forgot about my scan in 2 weeks time. However, I do now feel it swiftly approaching, and in memory of my Scanxiety blog post a while back I thought when better to reiterate what scanxiety is, and why it's such a big issue for the cancer community.
What is Scanxiety?
Scanxiety is anxiety experienced in the period leading up to diagnostic/medical scans (e.g. CT/MRI) and their results.
Why is it an issue for cancer patients?
Cancer patients are constantly being scanned. During treatment, people are scanned regularly to check how well it's working, and after treatment we are still regularly scanned to make sure the cancer isn't growing/spreading. Name the scan, and we have probably had it! All the way from diagnosis to at least 5 years into remission, we are being scanned, and each time is nerve-wracking.
We worry that the treatment isn't working, or that we'll have to go through it all again, or worse - the cancer may have spread and not be treatable.
For me and many others, the scans themselves can be a cause of anxiety. Personally, I hate needles, and many scans involve a contrast dye injected intravenously. Some people find the machines frightening, if they suffer from claustrophobia.
Scanxiety is just another bump in the long old road cancer patients have to deal with.
Luckily for me, I have found my last few scans a lot easier to deal with. They are less frequent at the moment (every 6 months, instead of 2-3 months), and the last few have been positive. I am gaining confidence and trust back in my body, which not only helps my day-to-day mental health, but makes leading up to scans far easier. I have also had a lot of time to process my sarcoma diagnosis and not let it affect my life, so I feel more prepared for whatever scans may bring me.
Nonetheless, the anxieties find a way to creep in every so often, and I find manage to impact my mood without me realising. For example, today I read a woman's story, with alveolar soft part sarcoma too, whose cancer this year spread to her spine and bones despite being on systemic treatment. Needless to say, that made me realise yet again the unpredictability of this disease. But, most days, I read stories of people who live or survive the disease for years and years! It's better to not base your own experience on anyone else's, as everyone's cancer experience is completely different.
Some coping tips!
Some things I would recommend to make scans a little less anxiety-triggering.
1. Look after yourself. Your mental health comes first. Don't drop any of the usual routines that keep you sane. This means try and get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, take some time to practise mindfulness.
2. Talk about your fears - do not push them away. It may be difficult, but if you can, voicing your fears to those around you can help lighten the load. If that is too stressful for you or you don't want to upset anyone around you, you can try writing them down, or consult a counsellor/therapist. If you are particularly worried, remember there are various cancer support lines:
Macmillan cancer support: 0808 808 00 00
Sarcoma UK Support line: (text) 07860058830 (phone) 0808 801 0401
3. Cuddle your pets! I had to put this one in because cuddling pets is, firstly, just wonderful, but secondly, a proven way to reduce anxiety levels.
4. Organise something nice to do on the day of your scan. I have begun a tradition of treating myself to a nice meal after each scan, often meeting up with friends. For example, last time I brought my sister along and we grabbed brunch afterwards. The time before that I went to pret and got a free matcha latte! The lovely people there didn't know I'd just been in hospital, I was just happily lucky! In doing this tradition, I remember the nice meal/company I had on the day of the scan, rather than the scan itself.
What do you guys do to help ease your scanxiety?
It can sometimes feel impossible to push through the anxiety, and very tempting to ignore your fears and worries, but the key thing is to look after yourself and try your best. To hark back to the title of this blog post, scanxiety is not actually something you can completely eradicate, and I don't think it is something you should 'keep at bay', but it is definitely something you can learn to cope with, with help.
Now I'm looking forward to finishing my hot chocolate, and getting a nice early night.
Thanks for reading!
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