It’s About the Remembering
It has been an emotional month. Over the past 22 days I suffered from severe scanxiety. I know that I have touched upon this type of anxiety in my previous post Perhaps… Just Perhaps. And let me tell you folks – this sh!t is real. As my mammogram and ultrasound fast approached my scanxiety worsened. I felt uneasy – my mind could not settle. I felt fearful – what if the cancer is back? I could not relax my muscles – tension everywhere – even in places I didn’t know you could feel tense. I felt moments of nausea but mostly (embarrassing to admit) overactive bowl movements. And to magnify everything I felt sharp pains in my chest restricting my breath. I felt like a complete basket case, yet I was reluctant to let anyone know the extent of what I was feeling – even though my feelings are validated. Vulnerability is not something I am good at showing or sharing when I am in the midst of it.
Is this wise? Probably not. But it’s what I do. I pull away from the world – mentally wrapped in a fetal position – desperately trying to get through the days, struggling with the anxiety. Why I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was going through is because I didn’t want to hear another “Don’t worry…”. It makes me want to scream out that it isn’t so much about the worrying, it’s more about the remembering. It is taking you backwards in time – to that very moment when your life is changed forever. When the unspoken words, silent, serious faces scream out CANCER. It’s the colours of the walls, the sounds of the machines, the feel of the plates, the gowns, the bed, the smells. All of this encompasses scanxiety. Which brings me to a fabulous article that I read, written by cancer survivor Tori Tomalia, called 10 Tips for Coping with Scanxiety. Of course (Murphy’s Law) I found this article after I had my scans, but I was surprised at how instinctively I followed her advice! In Tori’s article she outlines great ways of dealing with the anxiety that a cancer patient/survivor feels when leading up to the dreaded scans. I wanted to share the tips that coincided with my own methods of coping with these overwhelming feelings.
Distraction: I did this with fervour! I binge watched The Crown and old episodes of Law & Order. I went out with friends. I listened to music – loudly – as I [almost daily] cleaned house. I kept myself super busy with anything I could so that I would not have to think about the upcoming mammogram and ultrasound.
Spend Time with a Child: This was easy! I have a 4 year old. I took him to the park. I played hot wheels with him. I took him for wagon rides. I doted on him. We read, played, laughed, and cuddled. Sometimes there is no better medicine than hearing your child’s laughter and being enveloped in your child’s sweet hugs!
Meditate: As the scans fast approached I engaged in my own forms of meditation. I journaled. I indulged in deep stretching. I went for walks. I prayed. I prayed a lot. I had [one-sided] conversations with God.
Acknowledge It: This was difficult to do. But I did. I talked with a friend; and I confessed to my husband what I was feeling and asked if he could come with me on the day of the scans. He did. He came with me. He waited with me. He was there when I was done. Having someone as your support makes the difference. It reminded me that I do not have to go through this alone.
And now the date has passed. The scans are done. But the anxiety is still present – not as fierce – it’s just hovering below the surface. As each day passes the anxiety does lessen. I will get the formal results on June 11th (more waiting) but I am lucky, because where I go for my scans, the Radiologist will inform me, prior to my leaving the hospital, if there are additional tests required. On the day of my mammogram and ultrasound I was told “all looks normal” and I was sent home with blessings.
And what did I do? I crashed. My body crashed. Overwhelmed with the fraught and intense emotions I experienced for 22 days I felt like a wreck. A relieved and thankful wreck. It has been a few days since my scans and only now am I able to take deep breaths. I ache everywhere from all the tension my body held, and my digestion is still a mess. But I can breath a little easier, smile a little more freely, and talk a little more openly. What are my next strategies, moving forward? Writing this post and hopefully sharing a bit of insight. Oh – and a massage! A much-needed deep tissue massage to ease away the remnants of the 22 days of tension. And lastly? Cuddles from my son. Lots and lots of cuddly hugs, laughter, and smiles.
Having cancer and surviving it is a deeply personal and life-altering experience. So be validated in how and what you are feeling. Share with your support, and rely on them to help you through your weakest moments. It does not mean you, yourself are weak. Know that it takes an incredible amount of courage to recognize how you are feeling and actively finding ways to help yourself through.
It’s About the Remembering. Published by Crystal Joy Hall