I am sitting here this morning by myself in a quiet house. My hubby took our girls hiking. I love hiking! But, sadly, I’ve still got those pesky bathroom issues in the mornings. Is it from the chemo? Is it from the radiation? Will it ever get better? I don’t know. It’s a bummer to feel so tied to the bathroom. And to feel like you are missing out on things. My issues seem to hit me hardest in the morning & then get better as the day goes on. But even when I do venture out, I am always looking for the closest restroom…just in case. Nobody wants to poop their pants in public! Just keepin’ it real folks.
In the quiet this morning I can feel the anxiety creep in. More accurately, the scanxiety. It’s a real thing. The anxiety you feel while waiting for the results of scans. For me it actually starts well before I even have the scans. And I have an MRI coming up on Friday. Yep, it’s been 3 months already since my last one. The time flies by! Now I am coming up on my two weeks full of appointments-scans, blood work & check ups with all of my doctors. I seem to go through a cycle of emotions now through the 3 month time period between scans & appointments. After getting results of no evidence of disease I feel relieved & I am so happy for the good news. But the fact that the result is “no evidence of disease” & not “you are cancer free” always weighs on my mind a bit. I start wondering if there’s something that the scan is missing. Some teeny, tiny cancer cell working it’s way through my body, waiting to dig its hooks into my liver, stomach or lungs. But I don’t want these negative thoughts to rule my life. So I push them down deep, focus on the positive & try to make the most out of my days.
And for a while I live in the ordinary world doing ordinary things. There are even days when I barely think about cancer at all. Those days are the best! But then one day radiology calls. It’s time to set up my appointment for my next scan. Already? Yep, I guess it’s been 2 months since the last one. And then the anxiety slowly starts to creep in again. A lot of my scanxiety isn’t just about what the results will show, but about doing the scan itself. For rectal cancer, you need a rectal MRI. Have you ever had a rectal MRI? To get the best picture possible they insert gel…up your butt. There’s no sugar coating that. I know it’s necessary, but it’s just awkward & humiliating all at the same time. And it’s painful. I still have a lot of pain down there & so, as you can imagine, this isn’t fun. And you have to hold this gel in for the 45-60 minutes it takes to do the scan. Then I have anxiety about keeping it in.
And there’s also the anxiety about going into the MRI machine. I don’t like going into small, confined spaces at all. In fact I panic a little every time I go in an elevator. First they lay you on the table (with the gel up your butt) & then they hook you up to an IV through which they’ll administer the contrast later in the scan. They ask what type of music you want to listen to & then put headphones on your head. Then you put your arms down by your sides & they put velcro ties around you so that you don’t move during the scan. And then they wrap a blanket around you too. Just doing all of this is enough to make my anxiety flare. When you are wrapped up like a burrito, you are sent into this tube-like machine. Oh yeah, but they do give you a button to push if you need them to stop for any reason. The panic button. Once inside the machine there’s maybe an inch or two between you & the top of the tube.
Then the scan starts & there are a lot of loud banging noises. Man that machine is loud! You can’t even hear the music playing through the headphones & you wonder what the point of picking your favorite Pandora station was. I’m usually ok for the first 10 minutes or so. I take deep breaths, keep my eyes closed & think happy thoughts. And I pray. A lot. After a while though, I find it starts getting harder & harder to breathe. I start feeling like the machine is suffocating me. And then I get really hot & start sweating. Then it gets hard to stay still & I start worrying about moving & messing up the images. I wait & wait for the tech to come over the speaker to tell me that we are almost done. Usually I make it, but during my last scan I had to use the panic button. I just couldn’t take it anymore, I thought I was going to pass out. Luckily they wheeled me back out for a few minutes & gave me a bit of a break. But then I worried that I somehow messed up the scan. See, anxiety throughout the whole process. The struggle is real.
When I’m done with the scan, the freedom is sweet! I always get dressed as fast as I can & head outside for some fresh air. And I always take lots of water with me to start flushing the contrast out of my system. It’s so nice to be done with the MRI! Except then starts the real scanxiety. The days of waiting to get the results of the scans are torture. No matter how much I do to distract myself, the worries are always in the back of my mind. I am not even a year out from ending treatment yet. I wonder if these scans will get any easier over time? How many good scans will I have before I can ever relax a little? I just don’t know. All I can do in the meantime is be so grateful for the time I’ve been given. I am so thankful for modern medicine & technology & the brilliant doctors that have helped to prolong my life. And I just remind myself that I can do hard things. I will be brave. I will be strong. I will do whatever is necessary to keep this cancer out. Because the other option isn’t an option for me. I have too much to live for!
So send me positive thoughts, vibes, mojo & prayers on Friday that I will successfully make it through this MRI & that the results will be good yet again.
*Edited 9/15/17-I got the results of my MRI a couple of days ago & there are no signs of cancer! Yahoo! In fact, an area that had previously shown thickening has also decreased. This is such great news & means that the treatments worked & healing is happening!