Scanxiety Is Also Fear Of Planning Longer Than Three Months
Google "scanxiety" and you'll find a couple different definitions, but, it'll be something like this: the tension which builds particularly amongst those who have or have had cancer as they move towards their regular check up scan, hyperscanxiety being the period as they await results.
Most of us in the cancer community are familiar with scanxiety, but I think there is another emotion that comes after you get the results of scans. I'm not sure what to call that emotion is, but it's definitely a real and widespread thing that deserves to be named.
I just had scans mid-May and I was so, so anxious before the scans; hoping and praying they would be good, wondering how to cope if they weren't, and then how to tell people if they weren't, wondering if I could do it all again if I had to… that kind of rollercoaster. I was trying to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
After I had the scans (which were clear!), I fell into a horrible depression. It's hard to describe the feeling. You work yourself up so hard for these scans, then you get the results and… yay! It’s all clear. But deeper than the celebration is the fear that it’s just a temporary reprieve. You realize that THIS, this happiness, this relief, this safety, is only temporary. You'll do it all over again in three more months. And it doesn't get any easier. Ever.
And then you realize that this rollercoaster is the new normal. And you have to come to terms with that. I am still trying to figure out how it will ever seem normal or fair that I can only plan my life in three-month increments. Do you know what it feels like to avoid planning longer than three months at a time in case the results come back bad the next time? How it feels when everyone else says "Oh, what a relief, I am SO glad the scans were clear. Whew-- glad that's over!" but you don't even get to feel the relief because the dread for the next round is already starting to build up in the depths of your subconscious.
I am still trying to figure the "new normal" out. I am trying to take each day as a gift. I definitely look forward to the future, but it is hard to make firm plans for months from now knowing that I could have to cancel them. One of the quotes that I turn to frequently is this:
I particularly love this picture because the ordinary is the beautiful. The ordinary is sometimes the best part of life.
Photo courtesy of Eric Rothermel.