Jen of The Cancer Chronicles blog has very kindly allowed us to re-publish a post she wrote recently on ‘scanxiety’. If you’re on a cancer journey, this term probably doesn’t need any explaining, am I right? Jen’s post might help you change your mind about scanxiety though…
This post probably has more relevance for my cancer friends and family, the rest of you might not quite understand what I’m going on about, but please bear with me. Here is an insight into the world of regular scans.
You might have heard (well… read…) me say before, I don’t get #scanxiety. I don’t see the point in assuming something is bad before I know it is, that just sounds stressful (yes sometimes I’m too logical for my own good but in this instance it’s useful). In fact I think scans are great. They either prove things are fine (yay!), or they catch anything that isn’t (phew!) then you can start doing whatever is needed to manage/reverse what the scan shows.
So I suppose instead of #scanxiety I get #scancitement (slightly less catchy). The results either make me happy that things are good or relieved that whatever is not good has been caught. I guess you could favour being blissfully unaware of things being bad but that’s not great and especially when it comes to cancer, which can lead to things getting a lot worse very quickly.
It’s not that I’m happy-go-lucky, ignoring the possibility that the results could be bad, I do prepare myself mentally that the results may not be good, but that’s as far as I go. I’m not minimising other people’s fears when it comes to scans (and a lot of people get a lot worse results than I have so I’m only commenting on my own set of circumstances), I totally get that it’s not something that people can just switch off, I’m just saying that these fears don’t apply to me.
So I don’t tend to think things are bad until I find out they actually are, which is generally a good thing, but can also have some not so great side effects when it comes to early detection for if my cancer comes back.
I’ve had chronic widespread pain for years and I just put up with it (doctors are yet to find what causes it, I suspect it’s fibromyalgia, or something equally as useless to diagnose and treat). My cancer didn’t present with pain but that’s not to say it won’t if it comes back. I’ve had quite a sore back for the past week, no I don’t think it’s cancer in my spine, but will there be a point where it actually is, and I ignore it for too long and just chalk it up to some other unexplained and inconsequential pain? If I were to go to the doctor about every unexplained pain, I would be there weekly and they would never take me seriously.
I also tend to have IBS symptoms fairly often. How will I know if it’s just normal or if I have bowel cancer? My Nan had bowel cancer… (I have learnt from my amazing bowlie friends to look for blood/changes so I’ll keep that in mind).
It’s really hard to find a balance between getting everything checked and getting nothing checked. Where do you draw the line?
So I am grateful for scans. They take the pressure off me. Although the ones I have won’t pick up other cancers, they are at least checking the most common places for mine to spread to, so that is a relief. If I could, I would opt for getting everything scanned regularly, including blood tests to check for things, and whatever else. That way it wouldn’t be up to me at all and I can forget about it, knowing it’s not my responsibility!! Now that would be a relief!!
Jen is originally from Australia but now calls London home. She was diagnosed last year with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in her upper jaw, at age 29. She had 6 cycles of MAP chemotherapy with each cycle involving treatment for 24hrs/day, 5days/week for 3 weeks and then a 2 week break before going again. Then she had surgery to remove the tumour as well as her upper jaw, a large chunk of the bone in her face and most of her top teeth, fashioning a new jaw out of the bone, skin, muscle and blood supply from her shoulder. The swelling post surgery was inconceivable, but 8 months on she is getting a lot better, and is waiting for dental implants. She has been blogging about her adventures at www.thecancerchronicles.blog and can be found on Twitter/Instagram as @thecancerchrons. Thank you so much to Jen for allowing us to re-publish this post.