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.
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.
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….
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?
Hi all: I am sending all of you good vibes for all the scans coming up.
I vote for distraction. I usually do something i really wanted to do and get lost in the moment. The next thing you know.. My mind "forgets" about the upcoming test.
Great advise! I have been cancer-free for 2.5 yrs after a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis. Scanxiety is very real and can really wreak havoc on a person. I love nature, animals, and photography so I take long hikes with my camera all the days leading up to the scan. The closer I get to nature the calmer I get. I also get copies of my scans as soon as they are ready. If I had an oncologist who told me I wasn't allowed to see the results before him/her, I'd find a new oncologist! Waiting for those results causes unnecessary stress that I don't need.
Thank you! Scanxiety puts a funny name to this state that only we initiates can truly understand, and in doing so, lessons it's terror by naming it and creating a community which understands and shares the journey. It affirms that we are not alone, and that is a powerful and uplifting realization, because Cancer Club, no matter how supported and motivated your survival struggle, is a solitary and lonely experience. Thank you for illuminating our basic connection--it really helps to be reminded that we all share these justifiable anxieties, and lessens the frequent feeling of isolation. And it's true: impossible to not be totally engaged, distracted and uplifted by belting out " Don't Stop Believing"! Thanks again--sending everyone loving and healing thoughts, Carolyn
When I had to have the MRI after my breast cancer diagnosis I was a wreck I don't even ride elevators if I don't have to scaling flights of stairs is my preference...so I knew without a doubt that I would not be able to make it through w/o a little help and I decided that while I was not sure I would be awake to come out of the machine it was better than the alternative. I had them play my favorite Sirrus XM station in my ears and there was a mirror that reflected the outside. The medication helped significantly. But now my anxiety is another surgery....that is something that I knew with reconstruction of the breast I would have to do but now that it is here well.....I had to have it postponed due to a root canal which is a whole other anxiety..LOL...I just don't like being so confined I guess. But I find that I have a great support system and while I try to give my pat answer of "i'm okay" when asked I find that perhaps I need to be more honest with some people. Not ALL people....Thank you so much for your blogs. It helps so much to hear and comment with others who know what you are experiencing.
Late after-effects of chemo have lead to several scans of my brain and a sometime there- sometime not - pituitary tumor. I can 'stay in the moment', really well, until 24 hours before the scan. Then, I become a ball of electric anxiety which everyone can feel; especially me! I then turn on meditations. Either my own, on Soundcloud.com under Yoga Being or someone elses. I listen to soothing guided meditations and rest and breathe. On the day of the scan, I ask that my husband be able to come in with me and rub my feet. I use wax earplugs, bring a lavender eye mask and I do diaphragmatic breathing. When it's over, I practice meeting each negative thought with the opposite positive one. I've learned that if something is there, it has been there, and I will deal with it. I have a strong spiritual connection, good friends, yoga and meditation and two young dogs to keep me grounded.