Now prior to cancer I would say I had a healthy amount of anxiety for me. Steph and some of my closer friends may argue otherwise, but overall I never felt as though my ‘run of the mill’ anxiety dictated my life or was debilitating in an fashion. Admittedly as an overachieving high school student, a grade below a 90 would send me into a slight panic (which is better than the tearful 89s of middle school). I’ve always had a little anxiety when it came to tests or a job interview, but aside from that my other moments of anxiety had more to do with my idiosyncrasies. For example, it takes me an additional twenty minutes to leave my house at any given time because I have to check the stove and the sink and make sure the toaster and microwave are unplugged. This by the way is a learned behavior from my mother, who has her own idiosyncratic anxiety. Aside from what is a relatively obsessive compulsive anxiety about shutting things off and even occasionally driving back home after I have just left to check the straightener, my only other source of anxiety is feeling trapped. This manifests itself in places like the theater or church, because I feel as though it is impolite or sometimes impossible to get out into the aisle freely. This anxiety of feeling trapped began nearly 10 years ago and recently subsided when I noticed that even my slight anxiety seemed somewhat hormonal. I explained to my doctor that I could predict my ‘crazy’ on the calendar and he suggested getting back on the ‘pill’ to regulate my hormones. Great idea Doc! It worked within a month or two and my levels of anxiety went back to normal. Now I only feel anxious when doing something out of my comfort zone, which is good.
Until recently I have been anxiety free. Most people would think otherwise, because of my cancer diagnosis but I’ve said it a million times – when it comes to having cancer you have very little decisions to make. Sure, ultimately you have a choice whether to be treated or not. But when the alternative is dying younger than you have to, is that really a choice? I don’t think it is. Thus, I show up and do what Z and Dr. J want me to do. Sometimes begrudgingly, like last weekend when I had to wear a mask to the store and stay home for the duration of the weekend. But alas I comply with the demands of my cancer and my chemotherapy.
And generally, I’m worry free. No amount of anxiety or stress is going to change my cancer status. If anything it could hinder my recovery. So even when things seem a little dicey, I make the most of it. Like today, when midway through my blood draw my port stopped working and I jumped up from the chair and did some yoga – ballet moves for Julie in hopes that she could get the last tube.
So honestly, I no longer ‘sweat the small stuff’. And admittedly I used to, but those little annoyances just don’t seem important anymore. As a result of this new perspective, I have discovered I am entertained by those who continue to be bothered by all the little things, which I know do add up. You have to feel for my poor boyfriend (we have graduated from man friend) who I am constantly telling to ‘suck it up, sunshine’ when his day goes awry. I’m hoping I can blame my cancer for making me less supportive, but I’m pretty sure I’ve always been this way somewhat. What I can say is that my cancer has given me perspective on what matters and what doesn’t, so I look forward to everyday and the little things that get in the way are just that – little things.
Having said all of that, I have to admit that I have terrible scanxiety about my PET scan tomorrow. This particular PET scan is no small thing. There is a lot riding on this radioactive material that can read my metabolic activity. If my PET is clear than I am in CR (complete remission) for the time being, which puts me in good shape for my auto early next month. If it shows a partial response, I may have to have another round of ICE. Which as you know, I’d like to tell ICE where it can go. And another round of chemo may mean a delay in the stem cell process. If it shows no response, and I am more chemo resistant that initially expected, they may have to revisit my options entirely. If I’m being honest, the more my cancer doesn’t respond to chemo the lower my odds are for being successful with any of these more traditional chemo and transplant plans. Now honestly, that is terrifying! Hence my scanxiety. Now please don’t misunderstand, I am still eternally optimistic regardless of my PET.
But I have to say one thing about cancer patients is that they have their own unique level of anxiety concerning scans that I think is always there on scan days, whether you are in the midst of treatment or nearing that five year in remission mark. There will always be some nervousness about whether or not your cancer is disappearing or has returned. No one wants to face more treatment or a repeat of it. Cancer should never have a sequel! I know no matter what, you have to leave it up to the universe! And that is exactly what I intend to do in addition to my prayers and faith in my guardian angels!