Scanxiety

At the end of 6 treatments of Etopside and Cisplatin chemotherapy I was feeling battered physically and exhausted emotionally. After the last treatment all the side effects increased and physically it took two weeks before I stopped feeling sick. Meanwhile throughout all these horrible feelings there was a prickling feeling of discomfort and concern about the inevitable scan at the conclusion of the treatment.

Scans are a necessary part of cancer treatment. We need them if the results are good or bad. But waiting for them. That’s when you get scanxiety. I think there is a sliding scale of how anxious you feel leading up to a scan. Generally I am fairly calm on the exterior, concerned on the interior but just trying to consider the possible options and keep on keeping on. However, I can be like a bear that’s poked if there is the slightest provocation.

At the end of this round of treatment I was expecting to see an improvement but I didn’t think the cancer would be completely gone, so in my head I was contemplating many different scenarios of what would happen next. I think this certainly increased the scanxiety I was feeling. The morning that I was going to the scan I was being particularly snappy with the children and then I paused and realised that I was probably more worried than I had realised about the upcoming scan.

Realising this helped me to calm down, however I probably didn’t handle it the right way! I explained to the child I was yelling at that I was worried about the PET scan I was having. He asked why I’d be worried, which I explained in simple terms, however even though I try to be honest but not create fear when I talk to the kids about cancer, this time I unintentionally transferred the scanxiety onto him. For the rest of the morning he proceeded to meltdown about everything! Cancer hits families, not just individuals.

Part of my concerns when it comes to scans is having the cannula put in and then during the CT part of a PET scan I can often experience intense pain as the dye is released into my body via the cannula. This time it wasn’t a smooth run with the cannula, it went straight in, but they had to use a vein I knew is painful and once the needle was in it was sitting near a nerve so it wasn’t comfortable. However it wasn’t painful during the scan, so hooray for small wins!

I’m sure the real information you are wanting to read is what the results were. Much better than I expected! The cancer in the centre of my chest and lungs has predominantly gone! Insert happy dance! There are three areas where the PET scan still show that there is some type of activity occurring. We will need to wait until the next scan to properly assess what is occurring. But for now I am finished with the chemo and feeling so much better for it!

I will continue to receive immunotherapy every three weeks. Hopefully this will deal with any remaining cancer and also be preventative for recurrence.

So for now I’m cautiously optimistic. I think you may need to have your own cancer experience to understand why there is a part of me that can’t fully celebrate. There has just already been too many twists and turns during this journey for me to reach the conclusion that I’ve entered the “live happily ever after” stage.

But right now, I’m enjoying that I’m not feeling so sick. I’m getting stronger and enjoying the extra energy that is allowing me to start catching up on some neglected tasks. My children and family have been so excited about the good report and it’s so comforting to see their spirits lifted.

As for scananxiety. Well, that’s lurking below the surface waiting for the results of the next scan. For now I acknowledge that I don’t know the future and that it could contain both good or bad. I know that either way I will deal with it and keep moving forward. Until then, I will keep loving life and enjoying all the blessings it contains.

Final chemo session

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2 Comments

  1. Great news Caitlin. We’re dancing a happy dance with you. And the dogs. You are still the bravest person I know. Sending all of our love. Elizabeth and Andrew Xxx

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