Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Question – How Do You Get Through Scans?

The most frequent question that I get asked, is “how do you get through scans?”  The question can pertain to other testing as well, because either way, an enormous amount of anxiety is created around testing time.  And whether it is diagnostic, follow up, or anniversary, the anxiety is often times unbearable.  And it took me a long time to master controlling it.  But it can be done, simply, by keeping things in perspective.  Keeping in mind what you have in your control, and what you want your end result to be.  Like I said, it sounds simple, and it is.  I just never had anyone explain it to me which is why it took me longer to figure out.

First, for those whose anxiety is at the diagnostic stage, there are two things initially you have to keep in mind.  Reality check, and you have to accept, there is the likelihood that you are going to end up with a diagnosis of cancer.  So you have two ends, a positive and a negative.  This is going to be the most difficult anxiety to learn to control, but it can be done.  The first thing you keep in mind, the scan or test being done, is nothing to get through.  And if your result is a negative one (that means you are not getting diagnosed with cancer – confusing I know, but this is one time that you want the negative result), you move on.  But if you are unfortunately told the results are positive, you end up at the next cross road.  Do you want to live, or give in?  I believe the majority of the people who are diagnosed with cancer want to live.  So, if that is the case, then you are going to fight it.

Like I said, it sound simple, and it is.  You already have two steps into the cancer process knowing what could potentially lie ahead of you.  You already have it in your mind that you are “prepared for the worst, and hope for the best.”  Once the testing is done, it is out of your hands whether you have the results tomorrow, or next week.

But another anxiety exists when you are half-way through treatments, and that half-way scan gets ordered.  By now, the anxiety is not of the scan itself, but rather the result.  And again, it can be handled the same way.  Once the scan is completed, it is out of your hands.  And the thinking is the same way.  You are either going to continue to fight as the results show positive direction in your treatments (there we go with the play on positive and negative again), but again, if the results show treatment not being effective, then you know you have to try something different.  Again, when you know what your options are going to be ahead of time, you have the better chance of reducing the anxiety.

And the final anxiety comes not necessarily from the last treatment or final scan following treatments, but rather anniversaries.  As a cancer survivor, we all look forward to that anniversary that we are in remission.  The first year is the worst.  The last thing we want to hear after being cancer free for a year, is to hear the words relapse.  But guess what, go into the scans just as I have suggested the other tests.  If the scan is negative, see you next year.  And if the result is positive for a relapse, then you have to fight again.  You have come too far.  But as each year goes by, this anniversary anxiety fades.  The belief being that the longer you are in remission, the less likely of recurrence.  And I believe that to be true in most cases.  Before you know it, year 2 and year 3 pass by, and then we hit that magical year number five which is what society deems us officially survivors of cancer – in other words, we met their life expectancy.

I am in remission now over twenty four years.  I do not have the anxiety I had heading into my 5th anniversary or even my 10th.  As each year it has gone by with less and less.  I realize number twenty five is a major milestone for a cancer survivor.  And I hope to continue to go well beyond that.  I know a sixty year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and I want to be like him.

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