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How to survive scanxiety from a 3 x cancer survivor

How to survive scanxiety from a 3 x cancer survivor

After nearly a decade dealing with the cancer shit show, sadly, I’ve not yet discovered the secret to overcoming scanxiety. (Unless you’re open to recreational drugs and a bucketload of alcohol for some temporary relief, but your oncology team probs won’t be down.)

The fear that surrounds cancer related scans can be completely crippling and totally unpredictable. One moment you have full trust in your bad-ass body and feel with every cell in your body that cancer is behind you, the next moment you’re compiling your funeral invite list and wondering what will happen to your hoards of clothes when you’re gone. (Does anyone else wonder this?)

However, what I have learnt are some tricks, activities, and calming techniques that help me manage the fear (which I've named Walter) and survive the time around scans. Plus I've added some extra wisdom from our wonderful Bravery warrior community. ❤️

Em xo

 

Definition of Scan xiety - the anxiety surrounding cancer related scans

 

 

Get out of bed. Start your day. Get dressed. Turn on some music. Eat your breakfast. Swallow your vitamins. Brush your teeth. You don’t need to do anything productive but don’t stay in bed with your thoughts. They are destructive and always win.

    Write. Get those scary thoughts out of your head and onto the paper. If a big old ‘dear diary’ offload isn’t your style, try dot points. Or even start with single words on how you’re feeling. I have paragraphs upon paragraphs filled with incredibly dark thoughts that will never see the light of day but have served me well.
      Consume only happy content. Delay rewatching GOT. Avoid the news for a week. Ted Lasso, The Durrels, Sex Education and a good old Frankie Magazine are my recommendations.

        The Durrells tv show

        (Do yourself a favour and watch The Durrells for Greek islands escapism)

        Walks (or movement in general). When the destructive thoughts took over, getting out of the house would always helped defuse my brain. I don’t know if it’s the movement of crappy energy or just soaking up some green tree vibes but it always works, even if I just go around the block.

           

          Distract yourself with good friends. Avoid seeing that naggy Aunt who has the world record for time spent complaining about people under 30 accounting to nothing in this era. See ya mate.
            Distract yourself with… retail therapy, baking therapy, spa therapy, massage therapy, bath therapy, dance therapy, art therapy, beach therapy, float therapy. What bring you peace and joy? Well, nows the time to do it!

              calendar with meltdown marked on a Wednesday

              Plan for the meltdowns. If you’re booked in for routine scans, you can mark on your calendar when you can expect scanxiety (in my case, Walter) to be knocking on your door. Think about what calms you and have it ready – cheery music playlists, good easy food, a bank of downloaded meditations, book in some catch ups, plan a hike, communicate to your loved ones how you’re likely to be feeling and brainstorm how best they can support you. Expect things to go pear shaped and have a plan.
                A bit of gratitude. So when I’m scanxiety high, my thoughts are often focussed on what’s wrong with my body. What is this lump? That cough sounds bad! Is that a lymphoma rash? Why does my leg hurt? Do I normally burp this much? Etc, etc. So once I catch myself, I breathe and then try to shift the negative thoughts to positive by acknowledging how remarkable and strong my body is. I remember how far I’ve come and what I’ve been through (treatment, operations, childbirth, stressful jobs, years of partying) and give myself a pat on the back. It realise my body is so strong, so capable and I choose to focus on that.
                  Find your fear. Where do you feel your fear? Is it in your neck, or tension in your shoulders, the pit of your stomach or like a weight on your heart? Place your hand over the area. Now close your eyes and concentrate on that feeling for a while. (Don’t forget to breathe.) It’s intense but after a while the feeling will start to change and maybe lighten a little. Note: Make sure you do this one in a safe, comfy space as sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. Go easy if it doesn’t feel great.
                    Befriend your fear. Sounds bloody stupid but stick with me. So unfortunately, this feeling is not going anywhere – so instead of freaking out, why not welcome it in. Even give the creep a name. Then you can say stuff like ‘Oh Walter you old pric – you’re back again.’ People might think you’re cray, but it honestly helps to separate you from the anxiety. The very smart @brionybenjamin taught me this tactic from her book ‘Life is Tough’.

                      He's a creep GIF 

                      EFT – So EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) has recently become a GAME CHANGER for me. Taught to me by Krista Jane, it's about moving the energy associated with a problem/fear/anxiety/illness. Watch this video for a basic run down on how to start. I used the set up ‘Even though I’m so anxious of getting my results as I’m scared the cancer has come back, I still deeply love myself and my body.’ Have a play around with using your own words and see if you can bring your nerves down. Again, this is only recommended if you’re in a safe space with support. Otherwise hit up KJ for a consultation and she can support you through it.

                      Get your questions ready. Make a list ready for your appt. What info will make you feel better to know? I asked about treatment options IF it ever came back. I also asked about the exact % of the creep coming back – something I had previously been too scared to ask. Plus asked for a psych recommendation. Will let you know how that goes.

                      Make a plan. Ok – so if things go tits up and you get the worst news, what will you do? The control freak in me found this comforting, especially when facing Hodgkin’s as I knew there would also be treatment options and I would just have to find the silver linings to make it bearable.

                       

                      EXTRA SUGGESTIONS FROM MY BIG BRAVERY COMMUNITY ❤️

                      Wear glittery undies. ✨ - Alice

                      Visualisation. “I have lesions on my brain and often visualise little workers (almost like Lego men and women with hardhats on) repairing my myelis around the nerves. A beautiful way to keep the power.” From Louise

                      Bake therapy. Specifically these drool worthy FUDGY BROWNIES as suggested by Claudia!

                      Avoid caffeine. - Keira

                      DANCE! Pre-scan dance party with the kids. – Alice

                      Audio books. Such a good idea for the waiting room! – Luce

                      Keep a secret. Don’t tell people exactly when the scan and results are so you don’t get asked constantly for an update. – Claui

                       

                      I'd love to hear any other suggestions by leaving a comment below! 

                      Tags: Cancer Tips

                      Comments

                      • Posted by Jill on

                        Think you should call him WALTER GROPIUS.Has much more potential than Walter ! Will make you almost laugh. X

                      • Posted by Jill Orr on

                        What about the people who know at least 8 people who’ve died of cancer and decide you need to be told EVERY detail of EVERY one ! That is what I can’t believe!
                        I think they’re very nervous and just start blabbing it out.

                      • Posted by Lizzie Cjzaand on

                        Thank you as always Em for great ideas and advice. I find journaling to be particularly effective, get those crazy ideas out and onto paper, they lose so much of their impetus that way…… and those beautiful, uplifting, supportive and positive friends. 🥰🥰

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