I'm not sure when I first heard the term "scanxiety," but I can tell you exactly when I first experienced the feeling. It was my first CT scan following treatment for my cancer diagnosis.
I tried to be brave as I walked from the registration office, to change into the infamous, ill-fitting gown,then proceeded into the waiting room, and sat to wait for what felt like forever. I made small talk with the staff, and pretended as if I was completely OK with what was about to take place.
Then it began, the initial scan since chemotherapy and surgery. The moment that determines my future. The event that makes time stands still, your mind spinning with the what-ifs. What if the chemo didn't work? What if the cancer came back? What if it's worse than it started? What if. . .
Proceeding with yet one more needle as the IV is inserted, which transports the contrast through my body and I feel an instantly warm sensation all over. The machine swarms around me, beeping, and soaring like a daunting gesture, just hinting to me to believe that it would find something. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 30. I was married and had a beautiful daughter who was turning two years old. It wasn't a normal cancer diagnosis case. I was unsure of what results I should expect. First, I went through a hysterectomy to remove ovarian tumors in hopes that it was caught before any cancer spread. Through the surgery, invasive cells were found, and in walked the recommendation of chemotherapy.
When I was finished with chemotherapy, my first scan was scheduled to check and make sure the cancer had not spread. There it was: That immense fear and constant paranoia that the cancer has come back. Anxiety as your scan is performed.
"Scanxiety." I believe that every person who has had cancer goes through this feeling. It is that feeling deep down which you are worrying if the cancer has come back, did the chemo do what was expected? You manage to go through all of the motions, do everything that the doctors tell you, feel like you do the best you can do, and in the end, it is all a gamble as to how the scan will come out. Prayers are said. Fingernails may be chewed to the very end, but nothing can quite prepare you for that feeling when you wait for the results, which never seem to be immediate either.
I can only give the certain advice that you put your faith in whatever gets you through during hard times. Imagine that the scans come back clear. Remain positive. Believe that whatever the outcome, you will be strong, you will overcome, and strength will bring you through. After all, you got through an incredibly difficult situation already.Some days I look back on the whole experience, and so much is foggy, dates are uncertain, even situations are muffled. However, I know that it was an experience that without it, I wouldn't be where I was today, nor would I appreciate life as I live it, renewed.
Megan Pomputius is a teacher and author living in Pennsylvania.After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she wrote the children's book, Still My Mommy, which can be purchased at www.mascotbooks.com. She has been cancer free since 2014. This guest column appears on Diagnosis: Cancer through our partnership with Inspire, an Arlington, Va., company with condition-specific online support communities for over one million patients and caregivers.