Scanxiety is the word in Cancerland to describe how patients feel before going through the next round of scans (e.g., PET and CT scans and MRI's). I am experiencing this emotion for the first time as I prepare to go in tomorrow for my first scans since starting treatment.
I am not a person who avoids facts or hard to swallow information. Facts, good or bad, provide the information necessary to make a plan and move forward. But, this feels different. For the first time -- including the day the doctor told me I have stage IV melanoma -- I am terrified to find out what is happening in my body. Maybe that is because believing that the last two weeks of 103 degree fevers more than once a day and accompanying nausea and vomiting are a sign that the treatment is working is core to my ability to cope with these unpleasantries.* How will I respond if I hear tomorrow that the tumors are growing? How much harder will it become to endure my day-to-day, which is already pretty tough?
This is the bad news I am preparing to hear tomorrow. I don't say this due to a lack of hope or faith. In fact, the Guru Oncologist has reminded us that it is still early so we may very well see that the tumors are growing and continuing to proliferate. He said often it takes three months for the T-cells get going and the tumors shrinking, which means my scans six weeks from now will be much more definitive and informative.
Then again, there is a chance that we may see some positive early signs, like a slowing in the rate of growth of tumors, a stall in their growth, or even some shrinking. How awesome would it be if that's what we see? Stranger things have happened. Needless to say, I would be overjoyed.
One thing that will be clear after tomorrow is how we're going to handle my brain tumor. You may remember that initially the plan was to zap it with a one-time radiation treatment back at the beginning of September. I decided to put this plan on hold so that I could get into this clinical trial. To start the trial, my brain tumor had to be untreated, but the deal was that six weeks in we'd have the option to do the radiation. So, if tomorrow we see that the brain tumor is shrinking, we'll leave it be and hope the treatment keeps on doing its thing. If the tumor is unchanged or larger, we'll zap it, probably in very short order. Either way I will be very happy to be rid of the thing. Brain tumors freak me out.
Scans freak me out too. The scans don't lie. They don't guess. They give you facts. And, in the words of the great John Adams:
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
In other words it doesn't matter how much I want those scans tomorrow to show progress toward kicking melanoma to the curb, the scans will show what they show. Good, bad or ugly. I can't control it. What I can at least try to control is how I respond and what I choose to focus on.
The past two and a half months have been filled with a lot of loss, a lot of fear and anxiety, and a lot of surrendering to God. Surrendering meaning trusting God not just for healing and physical comfort, but to strengthen and encourage me when I am down; to take care of my heart when it feels like it's crumbling into a thousand little pieces. I don't know about you, but I think God often uses people to be the arms, the legs, the crying shoulder to show His love and grace to us. He has used so many of you, some whom I've never even met, to do this for me. Visits. Emails. Blog comments. Facebook messages. Texts. It is these tangible expressions of the love God has for me that is the glue holding me together today as I battle scanxiety, and it will be doing the same tomorrow, come what may.
* My apologies for taking a brief hiatus from blogging. Since my second infusion two weeks ago the side effects have intensified significantly and I have not been up to writing. Actually I have not been up to to doing much other than binge watching Gilmore Girls and keeping up on the the current season of excellent television programming (Blindspot is a great new show, BTW). Hopefully things will improve and I will have the energy to get back to the computer more frequently.