Practical Ways to Beat Scanxiety

by Jane Ashley

Virtually every cancer patient will agree that when it’s time for your scans, it’s one of the most stressful parts of your treatment or surveillance after treatment. It has a name – SCANXIETY (scan zi et ee). Here are some practical ways to beat scanxiety.

Practical Ways To Beat Scanxiety

Your closest family members don’t understand; your friends don’t have a clue; don’t bother to tell a co-worker either. We remember all too well that when we were diagnosed, it was most probably a scan that told our doctors that we had cancer. Never again would we take for granted that “we’ve got this.” Because we had learned that our bodies sometimes fail us.

What can we do as cancer patients and cancer survivors to deal with this anxiety over an upcoming scan?

Do something that we have control over – do something that we can actually change or fix. Take charge. Be physical. Scanxiety is totally mental, and with some projects like the ones listed below, you can regain control of your emotions and accomplish something too. Physical projects usually occupy your mind so that it doesn’t wander off into those dark places called “worry” and “what if.”

1. Do something where you have control to actually change it. A painting project at home comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be a big project – just paint something so that you are in charge. Lighten up the guest bathroom with a fresh coat of paint. Paint that dinged up chest of drawers with chalk paint (so easy to use) and then put new pulls on the drawers.

2. Take a daily walk. Walking helps relieve depression and anxiety. If you have an upcoming surgery, walking acts like a “pre-hab” to prep your body and get it stronger. You’ll get a two-for-one benefit from walking.

3. Declutter and donate. I recently decided that it was time to go room-by-room and closet-by-closet and donate perfectly good clothes and household items and throw away the rest of the “junk.” Studies show that messy houses and workspaces create anxiety. My first project was the master bathroom. I took everything out of the linen closet and reorganized the towels by color, put away my ostomy supplies (now cleverly tucked away in fabric-covered storage bins that I bought from Aldi’s) and stored supplies like soap, spray cleaners and air fresheners in metal mesh baskets. $25 of storage supplies and an afternoon of work transformed that space.

4. Add lifting weights to your weekly schedule. Use every other day. Simple bicep curls using whatever weight is easy for you to handle will suffice. Resistance bands are another easy exercise to increase your strength. These simple exercises are stress busters.

5. Shred old papers. You don’t need to keep income tax records that are more than 7 years old. So the day before your scans, shred old documents . Looking back over old papers is a trip down memory lane and provides a distraction from your upcoming scans.

6. Start a new hobby. Men might enjoy learning how to carve wood. Both sexes might enjoy learning how to paint. Most Hobby Lobby stores offer lots of craft classes including oil and watercolor painting , sewing, cake decorating and yarn crafts like knitting and crocheting.

Idle Minds

7. Take a day trip. Choose a place that you’ve always wanted to go. Plan to eat lunch at a special restaurant. Take lots of pictures.

8. Take a break from watching or listening to the news. Today’s news is stressful to hear.

9. Don’t research your cancer when scan time is coming. Take a break from a message board that focuses on your particular cancer. Clear your mind of thoughts related to cancer.

10. Find a yoga class. Practice some of the poses at home when your mind begins to wander.

11. Invite a friend out for coffee or lunch. Focus on your visit and linger over a second cup of coffee.

Coffee With A Friend

12. Begin a gratitude journal . When we concentrate on the good things in our life, we have fewer reasons to feel anxious.

13. Learn deep breathing techniques. Deep breathing helps me immensely when I’m feeling stressed. 

14. Having trouble going to sleep? Try Melatonin (be sure to consult with your doctor). It’s safe and effective for almost everyone. You might also try lavender oil on your pillow. The days are easier to face when you are well rested.

15. Volunteer. It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves when we are stressed and anxious. Volunteer if you are physically able. You might walk some dogs at the local shelter. Perhaps you could help serve lunch at the weekly meal for the homeless. 

16. Plan a special lunch for the day that you get your scan results. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This is something that my husband and I began when I was first diagnosed. We were to learn the results of my staging scans. I was terrified going into that appointment, but we planned to go out of a special lunch, regardless of the outcome of the appointment. It was bad news; I was diagnosed with Stage IV rectal cancer. We were numb and shell-shocked from the news, but we still went out for lunch at Outback Steakhouse. We sat quietly and looked at the menu. 

We had a good waiter. We ordered coffee and began digesting the news. We had already developed a plan for our meeting with my surgeon. So we decided to enjoy our lunch. Special lunch on scan results day is one of our new family traditions. It’s a chance to sit down in neutral territory and absorb the news.

And If We Receive Bad News?

Make a list of what’s going right in your life. Accentuate the positive things you’ve learned from your past cancer treatment. If the worst happens and you have a recurrence, you’re better prepared to cope with being in treatment again. You know the questions to ask. Being a WhatNexter gives you tools and support.

Scans and recurring blood tests are part of being a cancer patient and cancer survivor. Don’t allow Scanxiety to rob you of a single day of joyful living.

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