A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about scanxiety. It was, and still is, one of my best-performing posts. I attribute this to the fact that whether or not someone is a cancer survivor, we’ve all experienced a bit of scanxiety at one point in our lives or another when it comes to seeing doctors and going for medical tests.
If you’re thinking you’ve heard of anxiety before, but aren’t quite sure what scanxiety is, let me explain. Scanxiety is the very real fear a cancer patient or survivor experiences when they have to go for testing, routine or otherwise. Scanxiety doesn’t care about your age, the type of cancer or disease, or how long you’ve been in remission. It can strike at any time, with or without warning.
When I wrote about scanxiety originally, it was a few years after my initial thyroid cancer diagnosis in 2013. I had been in remission for a couple of years when out of the blue, one of my cancer markers appeared elevated on a blood test. My doctor and I watched and waited for a few months, as the number continued to climb. Eventually, I underwent a whole body scan with a radioactive iodine tracer to rule out a thyroid cancer recurrence. Ever since then, my scanxiety has been at an all-time high pretty much any time I have to see a doctor, let alone go for testing. While I’ve always been prone to anxiety, scanxiety is relatively new (but apparently, permanent) for me.
I decided to share this post as a follow-up to the one I wrote years ago because today, I am returning to my primary care physician for a parathyroid re-check. Four weeks ago, I saw a new primary care physician who noted that my calcium levels were outside of the normal reference range on my most recent blood test. Ironically, the first appointment I had with this doctor was in April, which was the same month I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer back in the day (after a new gynecologist found a nodule), and I am currently celebrating my 10-year thyroid-versary this June. So, you can see where I’m going here (or at least where my mind is going).
Over the years, I’ve spoken with many people, cancer survivors and non-survivors alike, who all share my scanxiety for their own reasons. While finding an exact reference to the number of people who struggle with scanxiety is difficult, a quick Google search returned pages of results with a plethora of scholarly articles on the topic and tips to help patients cope with this heightened emotional state.
As I head to today’s re-check, here are a few ways I’m trying to keep calm (at least until I get more results):
- Be positive: Despite the situation being eerily similar to when I was initially diagnosed with thyroid cancer, it is not the same thing. And hopefully, the outcome will be different, too.
- Ask questions: While it will be a few days until I get my blood work back, I am going into the appointment with my patient advocate hat on and prepared to ask smart questions—covering the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be for any outcome.
- Treat yourself: I always try to do something fun after any type of medical appointment, but especially one that I’m nervous about. So, I’ll be going for a nice brunch after this appointment and then spending some time in nature.
Here’s to taking some of my own advice…and remembering that I can do hard things. Wish me luck!