Anxiety and cancer: My fear of upcoming scans

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scanxiety by linda ryan.JPGBy Linda Ryan

As I get ready to go to Houston for a follow-up appointment, I'm having scanxiety. It's that feeling of anxiety and worry that comes with doctor appointments.

For me, anxiety strikes when I'm about to have scans to measure or confirm my cancer is gone. That's when I start thinking about recurrence and how I could battle cancer again.   

Anxiety over cancer recurrence

Anxiety about my cancer returning isn't always at the front of my mind unless I'm headed for a scan or doctor's appointment. 

But I leave for Houston this coming Wednesday, so those thoughts are currently on my mind.

The feelings aren't there because I'm feeling any differently or have any concerns. They are there simply because going to the doctor brings my cancer close to the surface again. 

It's a reminder that I had cancer and that I fought hard, but it's also a stronger reminder that cancer is a part of my life.

Questions as I approach the one-year mark
I think about cancer a lot. 

Often, people say "don't say that" if I talk about cancer coming back. Nobody knows if it will or won't come back. I need to be prepared for it to come back in hopes that it never does.    

I'm close to my one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. It has been very similar to when a loved one passes away in the sense that the year has been measured by "last year I was sick for that" or "last year I wasn't sick for that event."

Now that I am approaching my one-year anniversary, I wonder if I will continue to measure time this way.

My friends and family know that I don't dwell on what I missed or how I felt during cancer. Sometimes I think it's harder to look back at those times than it was to go through them.   

Reminders of my never-ending fight
I recently went away with my friends for our annual trip. One day we rent bikes and go for a long ride. Part of our route goes over a long bridge. 

Last year, I had to walk my bike up the bridge. This year, I made it without walking, but I kept thinking about last year, which took place a week after chemo.

As I rode over the bridge this year, I marveled at how I'd been able to ride more than five miles after chemo. I couldn't stop thinking, "How did I do that?"

Reminders of that time bring the reality of my never-ending fight with cancer into focus.   

A waiting room bond
Sitting in the waiting room before a scan and a chemo appointment,  I met a nice woman who was there for a follow-up scan. She had fairly significant scanxiety. Like me, she was a young mother. 

We talked for quite a while and even chatted in the back after getting on our scrubs. I think it helped us both keep calm. 

Her scan was negative. 

She and I are now Facebook friends, and I enjoy keeping up with her life. Her life. Not her illness, her life.  

My new reason to be anxious
This time, I'm also anxious because I'll be travelling to Houston alone for the first time.  My usual travel companion, Barbara, will not be going with me this time.  

I will miss my friend.  I will miss our traditions and the places we normally go. I will miss the laughs and the rhythm of the trip that have become so familiar and comforting.

Linda Ryan thought she had checked cancer off her list. Having just run her first marathon, it was hard to imagine that her cervical cancer had returned after seven years. Cancer chose the wrong woman. She was ready to battle cancer for the third time with health, laughter and friendship. Follow Linda Ryan at

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