Scanxiety. My peeps on the Colon Club know this as the anxiety with getting scanned and which accompanies the wait until you get the results. My husband knows it as that horrible gripping fear that you have that something is wrong until the doctor tells you different, sometimes not until a week after the scan. During this week, he realizes that he is nearly unbearable to be around. He thinks of it as the male version of PMS – it’s PSS (Post-Scan Syndrome). There are a whole lot more mood swings than anyone going through PMS could possibly exhibit. Some people get it, some don’t. Much like everything else that has to do with cancer, your reaction really depends on the individual and can be varied by degree.
What is the Colon Club? It’s only the coolest most awesome support group of colorectal cancer survivors I have ever met. It’s my online family of fellow roller coaster riders in Wally’s Wild World of Cancer. We celebrate our ups and we share the misery of our downs (and there are some fall-off-the-cliff downs). We can talk about things that we wouldn’t necessarily share with family/friends because it’s not considered “polite” conversation, but they are very real issues that we need to deal with as we go through treatments and oftentimes after they are behind us (no pun intended). If you’re a fellow survivor or caregiver reading this, I encourage you to register and introduce yourself – there’s a great wealth of information and support there. It’s one of the first places I go to share my news (good or bad) because they “get it.”
Since I just had a scan (or rather, a couple of them), I thought it would be a good time to share. Living life scan to scan, or 3 months at a time, can become unnerving for most because until that report comes back, you simply don’t know if you’re going to be heading off to surgery, sitting in that infusion chair with poison (chemo) coursing through your veins, looking at next options (medical trials), or celebrating the ass-kicking that you just gave that big old C-word.
No news is good news. I have been NED (no evidence of disease) since my last surgery, so my NP (nurse practitioner) and I agreed that we would run the quarterly CT scans and so long as things were status quo, I would continue have my routine follow-up with her. However, if anything changed, she would give me a call and I would come in to meet with the surgeon. It’s been a good system. Then I got that dreaded call the evening before I was supposed to see her. My CT scan last week showed that the hemangioma (I’ve had it for several scans now) had “changed” so she wanted an MRI to get a definitive answer on whether it was malignant. Son of a motherless goat.
I’ve never had an MRI before, but I knew what I was supposed to expect…or so I thought. Once I had gowned up and the IV was placed, I was sent into the machine. The first thing I did and the first mistake I made was I opened my eyes. Wow. I was NOT prepared for the tube I was in to be only inches from my face. Instant claustrophobia took over and when I was asked if I was ok? I asked to be pulled out and for a towel to cover my eyes. MUCH better, although thanks to one of my CC buddies, “now i have to get a vision of a parrot going to sleep with a towel over its eyes in an mri scanner out of my mind…”
This was one of the few times where I was able to just pass go and collect $200. Well, actually it was the doctor’s office that got to collect the cash, but I didn’t have to wait and went directly to find out the results of the MRI. After going through the mundane tasks of taking care of the copay and having my vitals taken (temp, blood pressure, weight, and oxygen levels), I was ushered into Exam room #3. My NP came in and my heart sped up a bit when she said “well…” There was palpable relief when she finished with “it’s a benign (not cancer) something.” It could have been a hemangioma, adenoma, or something else, but it’s not a malignant (cancerous) tumor. Music to my ears. On to the routine questions then. Blah, blah, blah, oh what’s that? You’re on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) now? Huh, that’s interesting. My mind is trying to control my urge to shake the answer out of her when she continues. Apparently there has been a very new study that shows a potential correlation between HRT and an increase in size of hemangiomas. Ooooh, is THAT why we’re supposed to make sure every single doctor (of which there are many) knows absolutely everything that is going on? Duh! #BangsHeadOnDesk
Back to the original plan. Don’t call me unless something shows up on the scan with one exception. She asked if I wanted her to call me only if the official report showed something we hadn’t discussed or if I wanted a call regardless. Are you crazy?!?!? Of COURSE I want a call regardless.
One last bit of good news to close out this post. June may be right around the corner, but I got to graduate early. I likely will continue to have my bloodwork done every quarter as a safeguard, but most recurrences happen within 2 years so she felt comfortable with moving me to scans every 6 months until I hit my 5 year mark from the last recurrence. Holy crap. That. Just. Happened.