How I Eventually Gained Confidence Towards Cancer Scans

Article

Before every cancer scan, I used to prepare myself for the worst.

cartoon drawing of blogger and sarcoma survivor, Steve Rubin

Back during my darkest days in treatment, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to escape the cycle of trauma. At 30 years old, I had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer, and suffered through a year of hardcore chemotherapy. If that wasn’t brutal enough, I was treated in pediatrics next to infants, teens and toddlers because that’s who are usually diagnosed with this type of cancer.

After pushing through chemo in such a chaotic environment, any relief was short lived. My immediate follow up scans detected nodules in both my lungs, and from there, the setbacks just kept piling on: more recurrences, more surgeries … all leading up to a less than 10% survival rate.

I was so strung out back then that I even remember before scans preparing myself for the possibility of amputation. Awful things just kept happening, and somehow, I felt like if I braced for really bad outcomes, they would be easier to accept afterwards. 

Looking back, I highly recommend against this approach because stress and picturing negative outcomes can suppress the immune system.

Miraculously, I eventually managed to turn my health around. At first, the pace of nodule growth and spreading began to slow, and then after removing them, the disease finally stopped showing up altogether.

The feeling of my first clear scan was surreal! The news actually brought me to tears over the phone. 

Yet, even after that breakthrough, I still struggled emotionally with scans for years. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I tried all different ways to ease the suffering, from keeping myself busy with chores around the house, to taking anti-anxiety meds or drinking to take the edge off.

I had to do something with the time, but I was still pretty miserable. No matter how much I tried to distract my mind, I couldn’t outsmart my body. Physical symptoms like cold sweaty palms, an upset stomach, headaches and awful negative thought cycles were unavoidable.

Honestly, it wasn’t until after I overcame the less-than-10%-five-year-survival rate that I truly began to notice a change in how I felt around scans. Part of this had to do with knowing how active of a role I take with my healing. I commit to my healing regimens like af ull-time job and work incredibly hard to promote internal conditions in my body that make it difficult for disease to thrive. I’ve also developed better coping mechanisms and systems to refocus negative energy after years of therapy and self-work.

While I still experience some tension and worry during scans — as far as I know, it’s impossible not to feel anxiety to some degree — it's a vast improvement compared to the past. And I’m extremely grateful that just like how I used to brace for more bad news during the worst of times, I’ve now been able to reach a point where I can now be relatively optimistic about receiving good news.

Two aspects in helping me achieve this sense of confidence have always been within my control: optimizing everything I could with personal wellness (focusing on my Six Pillars of Health) as well as equipping myself with the right tools for coping with difficult emotions like fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

However, maybe the biggest factor offering genuine reassurance has simply been time. Achieving consistent positive results over the yearsfortify and compound my sense of belief with each passing scan.

Thinking about this made me wonder what I might say if I could go back in time and talk to myself during the scariest times, when there were no answers in sight.

I decided I’d just reassure myself to keep it simple. Basically, keep studying what’s led to the success of other cancer thrivers, and work hard to “earn your health” to the best of your ability every single day.

The greatest feeling is that turning around my health hasn’t just been pure luck — that’s a factor, absolutely, but I’ve worked extremely hard to become the type of person who sets themself up for success, and I continue to learn and keep working at it one day at a time.

Of course, every situation is different and there are no guarantees with cancer, but in my opinion, this approach has given me the best chance possible at having long term, sustainable wellness.


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