It’s that time of the year again, folks. It’s scan time! For those of you who don’t know, scan time is the time where us folks with oddly multiplying cells get raked over with a fine toothed comb to see if our cells are, in fact, still oddly multiplying.
This usually happens in increments of three. We go every three months, six, nine, and so on. You can do the math. I believe in you.
Getting to a year (psssst, that’s twelve months) is a personal goal for me, as it’s never happened before. Meaning, I’ve never been well enough in this process for an oncologist to think I could make it a year without some of those oddly multiplying cells doing what they do best.
This time I was given ten months, which threw me because of the ‘increments of three’ thing I talked about earlier. I’ve never had ten months, so I asked if we could make it year. That’s when I got the ‘eeesh’ face and the dismissive nod, which is all you need to know about the current uncertainty of my situation.
Thanks to a global pandemic, ten months did turn into twelve. For the most part I was happy about that because I am talented procrastinator. In high school, I was the type of person who would write a research paper the night before it was due. In adulthood, I’m still soaking a pot from three dinners ago. I know what I’m doing.
Scanxiety sounds like a made up word. Well, because it is. But it’s not a made up phenomenon. I don’t have charts or graphs or anything, so you’ll just have to trust me. Or you could ask anyone with cancer. They’ll tell you. The time before your checkups is a tornado of emotions and viscous mental goo. And, for me, too much ice cream. It always involves way too much ice cream.
This time the scanxiety is pretty intense. Perhaps it’s the fact that Covid has me feeling like I’ve been in the house since 1983. Maybe it’s because my initial appointment was postponed. Or it could just be stomach upset from all the ice cream. But really I think it’s just my brain working overtime thinking about those oddly multiplying cells.
Even though this time has been a little more intense than previous times, this snapshot of the last week or two’s thought process is pretty typical of how my scanxiety usually goes:
Two weeks before checkup: Feeling good. Remind the husband that I’ll be gone that day. All is right with the world.
One week before checkup: Letter arrives from insurance company alerting me they’ve approved coverage of my MRI.
Me, to my husband as I dig through the freezer: What the fuck, dude? There’s no ice cream.
My husband, realizing the date, harnessing all his knowledge of dealing with 30 years of my PMS: I’m headed to the store. You need anything else?
Six days before my checkup: Looking in the mirror, I irrationally decide my leg looks twice it’s size. Completely convince myself the tumor is growing and I’ll be on chemo within the week. Spend an hour shopping online for scarves that will hide the inevitable hair loss in my future.
An hour later: Unfriend five people on Facebook for no good reason.
Two hours later: Me, to myself: My leg looks fine.
Five days before checkup: Decide that ice cream bars for breakfast and gummy bears for dinner is self care. Pours extra glass of wine while googling the health benefits of resveratrol.
Four days before checkup: Wake up and decide to abstain from meat, carbohydrates, alcohol, sugar, and dairy for the rest of my life in an effort to stack the cancer odds in my favor.
An hour later: Consumes an entire bag of potato chips while binge watching Jersey Shore. Decide I can eat and drink whatever I want because Snooki eats all those things, drinks like a longshoreman, and doesn’t have cancer.
Three days before checkup: Receive the estimate for my MRI bill and go on hour long rant to my dog about the corrupt nature of the American health system. Unfriend three more people on Facebook. Take another look at my leg in the mirror. I can’t really tell, but I think it actually is getting bigger.
Two days before checkup: Cry. Sob, actually. Eat more ice cream. Pick out the clothes I’ll wear that day. Obsessively clean all the toilets in the house.
Day before checkup: Switch it up and eat gummy bears for breakfast and have ice cream for dinner. Watch ASMR videos on YouTube all day while wondering aloud why people watch this stuff. Get absolutely no sleep.
Morning of checkup: Obsessively pack and repack my bag for a very long day. Convince myself I’m late, but actually arrive an hour ahead of time. Look away when they do the IV. Hand over my glasses. Get strapped in.
MRI tech: You ready.
Me: *lies* I was born ready.
Deep breath in. And out. Forgets all of this until it’s time to do it again.