10 Tips for Coping with Scanxiety

Started by anonymous, February 16, 2015
33 replies for this topic
anonymous

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Posted on
February 16, 2015
I have my every-three-month scans coming up on Friday, and I am already a nervous wreck. The week or so leading up to my scans I, like clockwork, come down with a nasty case of PSS: Pre-Scan Syndrome. It mimics all the emotional symptoms of PMS, with irritability, heightened emotions and general crabbiness, and lasts through when I get my scan results.
 
I don’t think scanxiety ever goes away, but as I've gone through more of these I have developed some tricks for trying to deal with the nerves. Here is a list of things that sometimes work for me.
 
1. Distraction
Binge watch episodes of your favorite TV show. Dig into a great book and get lost in the story. Go somewhere fun that you have never been before. Treat yourself to something that will keep your mind busy thinking about anything but those scan results.
 
2. Loud Music
Crank up the radio! Blast 80s music! Belt show tunes! It's hard think about scans while reenacting scenes from Flashdance, and I challenge you to feel anxious while singing "Don't Stop Believin'." Trust me, this is some magical stress relief. The science behind it probably has something to do with endorphins, but I am too busy right now rockin' out to "Pour Some Sugar on Me" to care.
 
3. Acknowledge It
When scan time is coming near, I feel like I need to wear a sign around my neck warning people that I am not responsible for the words that come out of my mouth. I get short with people and am likely to snap at them for no particular reason. Acknowledging what I am feeling and why can help to make it more manageable for myself and those around me.
 
4. Make Plans for the Worst Case Scenario
While I always hope to get great news, I find that sometimes I can lessen the panic by knowing what the plan will be if the scans are bad. Cancer makes you feel powerless and at the mercy of the disease. Having a plan in place can give back some of that lost feeling of control.
 
5. Spend Time with a Child
I've written before about the incredible ability that small children have to live in the moment. For them, all that matters is what's happening right now: this game of Go Fish, these orange slices, this third reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Spend the afternoon with a little one and the worries will drift away for a few hours.
 
6. Pretend You Already Got Good Results
This is totally delusional, but sometimes I can trick myself into imagining that – hey, I already got the results, and they were great! Sure, it only lasts for a few seconds, but those few seconds are a lovely relief from the anxiety.
 
7. Know When and How You Will Get Your Results
My oncologist only gives the results in person, so I know I will not hear anything until our appointment on Tuesday. For me, knowing this is a relief (although waiting the weekend is a bit of a challenge!), so I don’t sit by the phone all weekend wondering if I am going to get a call. Discuss with your doctor how you will find out the results so that you don't have the extra layer of anxiety, wondering when you will hear.
 
8. Help Someone Else Out
Sometimes, the best way to relieve your own stress is to help out someone else who is struggling. Help a neighbor, talk to a friend in need, shift the focus off of yourself for a while. It can be refreshing to worry about someone else for a change.
 
9. Meditate
There are many different strategies for calming the mind, such as deep breathing, praying, positive visualization and physical relaxation strategies. And if those don’t work….
 
10. Medicate
Let's be frank, depression and anxiety are cancer's annoying younger siblings who tag along and show up at the most inconvenient times. There is no shame in discussing these issues with your doctor and considering taking medication to help.
 
 
So, what about you? What are your best strategies for dealing with the dreaded scanxiety?
 
 
Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
     Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lungcancerblogger
     Twitter: twitter.com/lil_lytnin
     Blog: "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer" http://lil-lytnin.blogspot.com/
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 16, 2015
I have my every-three-month scans coming up on Friday, and I am already a nervous wreck. The week or so leading up to my scans I, like clockwork, come down with a nasty case of PSS: Pre-Scan Syndrome. It mimics all the emotional symptoms of PMS, with irritability, heightened emotions and general crabbiness, and lasts through when I get my scan results.
 
I don’t think scanxiety ever goes away, but as I've gone through more of these I have developed some tricks for trying to deal with the nerves. Here is a list of things that sometimes work for me.
 
1. Distraction
Binge watch episodes of your favorite TV show. Dig into a great book and get lost in the story. Go somewhere fun that you have never been before. Treat yourself to something that will keep your mind busy thinking about anything but those scan results.
 
2. Loud Music
Crank up the radio! Blast 80s music! Belt show tunes! It's hard think about scans while reenacting scenes from Flashdance, and I challenge you to feel anxious while singing "Don't Stop Believin'." Trust me, this is some magical stress relief. The science behind it probably has something to do with endorphins, but I am too busy right now rockin' out to "Pour Some Sugar on Me" to care.
 
3. Acknowledge It
When scan time is coming near, I feel like I need to wear a sign around my neck warning people that I am not responsible for the words that come out of my mouth. I get short with people and am likely to snap at them for no particular reason. Acknowledging what I am feeling and why can help to make it more manageable for myself and those around me.
 
4. Make Plans for the Worst Case Scenario
While I always hope to get great news, I find that sometimes I can lessen the panic by knowing what the plan will be if the scans are bad. Cancer makes you feel powerless and at the mercy of the disease. Having a plan in place can give back some of that lost feeling of control.
 
5. Spend Time with a Child
I've written before about the incredible ability that small children have to live in the moment. For them, all that matters is what's happening right now: this game of Go Fish, these orange slices, this third reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Spend the afternoon with a little one and the worries will drift away for a few hours.
 
6. Pretend You Already Got Good Results
This is totally delusional, but sometimes I can trick myself into imagining that – hey, I already got the results, and they were great! Sure, it only lasts for a few seconds, but those few seconds are a lovely relief from the anxiety.
 
7. Know When and How You Will Get Your Results
My oncologist only gives the results in person, so I know I will not hear anything until our appointment on Tuesday. For me, knowing this is a relief (although waiting the weekend is a bit of a challenge!), so I don’t sit by the phone all weekend wondering if I am going to get a call. Discuss with your doctor how you will find out the results so that you don't have the extra layer of anxiety, wondering when you will hear.
 
8. Help Someone Else Out
Sometimes, the best way to relieve your own stress is to help out someone else who is struggling. Help a neighbor, talk to a friend in need, shift the focus off of yourself for a while. It can be refreshing to worry about someone else for a change.
 
9. Meditate
There are many different strategies for calming the mind, such as deep breathing, praying, positive visualization and physical relaxation strategies. And if those don’t work….
 
10. Medicate
Let's be frank, depression and anxiety are cancer's annoying younger siblings who tag along and show up at the most inconvenient times. There is no shame in discussing these issues with your doctor and considering taking medication to help.
 
 
So, what about you? What are your best strategies for dealing with the dreaded scanxiety?
 
 
Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
     Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lungcancerblogger
     Twitter: twitter.com/lil_lytnin
     Blog: "A Lil Lytnin' Strikes Lung Cancer" http://lil-lytnin.blogspot.com/
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 16, 2015
For me the most useful, calming thing to remember is at least I'm going to know, and knowledge is a good thing. One person on Facebook talked about changing scanxiety to scanticipation for that very reason, and I have taken that to heart.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 16, 2015
Anita - that is the interesting thing about scanxiety. My logical mind understands that nothing is different before and after I find out the results; the only change is my knowledge. And yet, the repercussions of that knowledge (and the treatment changes it would require) could be daunting. A strange thing scanxiety. Thanks for your comment.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 16, 2015
Tori, I loved this. I, too, have scans coming up in a couple of weeks, and I've already started dreading and anticipating the scanxiety (as an added layer of stress, being anxious about my anxiety!) I agree with all of your points, and just remember to do them more often. I'll be thinking of you next week. Lots of love!
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 16, 2015
*need to remember to do them more often. I also find writing helps (whether or not I can remember the words I want to say!)
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 17, 2015
fantastic article. scanxiety is the worst - i was petrified before my most recent PET scan - my first post-diagnosis. i mostly just went with escapism - something i used to feel a bit guilty about doing (i should be more mindful, right?) but have found to be my total saving grace through my treatment.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 17, 2015
I do plan for the worse senerieo and I do take an anti anxiety a few weeks prior. I'm 10 years out but still suffer panic attacks close to being tested. I guess this will never change. I have come to realize that.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 17, 2015
Tori thank you for sharing this when you did. Just putting a name to the anxiety helps validate the sleepless nights, the snapping at people for seemingly no reason etc. Also as heartbreaking as it is to know others are in the same position as you it is somewhat comforting knowing you are not alone. My scan is next week to see if the surgery, chemo and radiation have done their jobs. I have recently began to rediscover the energy returning so have used that to do things that have been piling up around the house. There is such a normal feeling to be able to do and enjoy the small irritating things. As well as spend a few hours at a time with my grandboogers 3 doing all things silly. Distractions of all shapes and sizes help even if it is just temporary. Sending you happy thoughts and well wishes.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 18, 2015
Jen - thank you, I know you get the feeling I'm talking about! Best of luck with your scans, and it sounds like you got great news with your markers, so you can breathe a little easier! Stay well, my friend.
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Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
February 18, 2015
Elizabeth - thank you, and no shame in escapism. We are dealing with really heavy stuff here. Sometimes you need to forget about it all for a while. Best of health to you!
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