Bruce Feiler nailed it in describing his experience as part of Time Magazine’s 2011 health special on cancer.
He calls his cancer scan: “My regular date with my digital destiny, in which a few seconds of X-rays will show whether the handful of nodules that have been in my lungs since I was diagnosed with bone cancer three years ago have grown larger.
“All patients have complicated relationships with their scans, not unlike the hate-love relationships we have with other technologies in our lives. We first learn we have cancer from scans, then learn from them if that cancer has shrunk or disappeared, then learn if it has come back. Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around for a few days and spit us out the other side. Land on red, we’re in for another trip to Cancerland; land on black, we have a few more months of freedom.”
What does scanxiety mean for me?
That my 12 year old still likes to sleep with me, and it comforts us both. It grows in frequency as we get closer to the time to return for scans.
In the week before our trip, I plan what I need to do and methodically avoid doing it all until the last possible moment so I can run around insanely and threaten to miss a plane or otherwise delay the inevitable trip. Every time.
Last night, I stayed up until 3 am. I forced myself to eat once today. I cried more times than I can count, but no one even saw.
Tomorrow is just another day. But Tuesday. Tuesday is completely unknown. Because tomorrow can change everything.
And I don’t fear the what ifs. But this is my reality. Whether I acknowledge it or not, it is there. Like our shadow…
And the only way I can cope is to cling desperately and completely to HOPE.