If People Tell You Scanxiety Isn't Real, They Are Wrong
Scanxiety is defined as the anxiety associated with cancer detecting scans. It is a real thing. Someone told me during my treatment that although my cancer treatment would end, the fear of recurrence would be the new thing to hate. She wasn't wrong.
Most people think that once you're finished with cancer treatment, all goes back to normal. They are, by far, incorrect. After I was done with treatment my new fear became scans - ranging from blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, X rays, Bone Scans, Eco Cardiograms, and the list goes on. I never knew how much it would impact me. The week before my 6 weekly, 3monthly, 6 monthly or yearly scans, I always become irritable and not the most pleasant person to be around. During this time my fear is heightened with the thoughts of "what if it comes back? What would I do if it came back? I don't think I could do it again." My stomach gets knotted for the whole week, I lose my appetite and begin to cry for no reason.
It's strange but one way I cope with this dreaded scanxiety is by wearing the EXACT same thing each time I go for a scan. People laugh at me for this, but I have become superstitious and scared. In my head if I wear the same thing, act the same way and am just the same person, nothing will have changed - meaning no chance of recurring cancer. I do know this is untrue and silly but it is one way I cope with the negative thoughts in my brain.
I also count how many times they take a picture or how many times I go in out of the CT scan machine during scans. I have a rough understanding of how many times they take pictures for things to be "normal". I hold my breath each time I go to my oncologist and she now knows that before we have a chat about life she has to tell me my results or I'm on edge the whole time. This is a constant fear in my life.
Another more recent fear is whether I'm "fertile" or not. I avoid talking about this at all costs as I get noticeably upset. I made the decision when I was diagnosed not to freeze a part of my ovaries. Do I regret this? I do. I want nothing more than to have children one day, but when the conversation came up, I was 14 and scared of dying to be honest. I didn't think about the implications that I would have later in life. A part of me wants to know but then another part doesn't. I'm scared of the answer.
If people tell you scanxiety isn't a real thing, they are wrong. It is. Some people don't get it but I get it bad.
But it's okay to be scared- we're only human and shouldn't be expected to be okay all the time. It's not realistic. I try to not let it show but deep down I'm scared to my core of the unknown future. But then again isn't that all apart of living? You will always live with cancer, it's a part of your past but it's how you choose to move on into your future that truly counts.
Bree currently resides in Melbourne but is orignally from a small town called Albury on the border of NSW and VIC in Australia. She was diagnosed with an Osteosarcoma in 2011 and is now 6 years cancer free! She has travelled many places in life and always seeking new adventures. She is a Social Work student wanting to pursue her dream of closing the gap of adolescent cancer care!