I asked fellow patients with cancer and survivors on Twitter for advice on coping strategies to combat "Scanxiety" and some suggested making a conscious attempt to not let anxiety ruin the days leading up to your next scan. I gave it a shot, and it worked.
It worked! It really worked.
Leading up to scans this week, I experienced the usual buildup of stress and anxiety. Nothing new there, especially for anyone who's faced recurrences. But for the first time, I also felt the faint sense of a different "C" word. Confidence. It may have been a result of how hard I work to earn my health every day, or just an aftereffect of receiving good news the past few scans. But, I had confidence.
I even noticed a burst of excitement at one point, a feeling totally inaccessible around scan times in the past.
On Friday's, my wife, Kori, and her best friend schedule happy hour conversations, and while they're chatting it up all night, I like to kick back and enjoy a movie along with a delicious homemade treat (fortunately for me, she likes cooking while on the phone). But right as I was sorting through movie options and getting ready to enjoy myself, the little voice in my head shut it all down.
Steve, what'd you forget about the bad scans and those disastrous consequences? Now's no time for joy. Who knows what's coming our way in just a few days. You need to stay alert and be ready. We need you gearing up for war!
Fortunately, Kori knocked some sense into me afterwards and reminded me not to torture myself like that.
The next day I asked cancer fighters on Twitter about their coping strategies, and reading their answers helped calm me down even more. Some even directly mentioned a conscious attempt to not let scans ruin the days leading up to it. And so despite all the PTSD that's built up over the years, I gave it an honest shot by staying loose, diving into books and keeping myself entertained. The night before scans, Kori and I enjoyed a movie, totally engrossed in the moment, keeping fear out of mind.
Then came the big day, and unlike most occasions where I'm waiting endlessly by my phone afterwards (literally trembling in fear), the hospital called with an update right away. Scans were clear.
It was almost dream-like. And thanks to the new approach, I not only had a better overall experience, I also regained some much needed trust in the universe. Of course I'm well aware that anything can still happen around the corner, and remain as committed as ever to continued healing, but I'm making sure to soak up what happened here, because if there's another lesson I've learned on my cancer journey, it's the importance of celebrating wins along the way.