Scanxiety, drama, and a little bit of defiance

As part of the protocol of the clinical trial, I now have scans every two months. Yesterday I drove to Boston for this purpose.  The drive itself was gorgeous: with the exception of winter, the seasons are short here, and even though it was the last day of August it felt very much like fall.  The highway is bordered on both sides by forest almost the entire way, but the median is grassy.  Those grasses have now gone to seed, and are the most beautiful colors.  Some are yet green, but others are dusty pink and purple, as well as shades of yellow and what I can only describe as champagne.  Just another good day to be alive.

The scan itself is routine now.  Yesterday I was able to forego the oral contrast (barium milkshakes) which made the experience far more pleasant.  Tomorrow I shall return for my trial date and will get the results of the scans as well.

I wish I could say that I am not anxious.  I am not sure if it is possible for scans to ever feel routine.  Someone coined the term”scanxiety”, which portrays so well the unavoidable anxiety associated with scans.  It is like taking final exams in school–we are all hoping  for a passing grade and are all too aware of the impact a failing grade would have on our future.

Last night I had several classic anxiety dreams.  One involved my falling from a boat, and rather than rising to the surface, I stayed submerged as a companion dove repeatedly in a fruitless effort to find me.  Another dream had me back in high school (a perfect setting for feelings of insecurity).  My friends were describing a party that they had all attended, and only I had not been invited.

So there you go:  my fears in a nighttime nutshell.  I am terrified of not being able to breathe, and I don’t want to be excluded from the party (life).

Living on the edge of your own existence brings a wonderful clarity, but there is little room for comfort.  I suppose this is what life must be like for those who have chosen to pursue risky adventures.  I am thinking of things such as sky diving or mountain climbing.  Exhilarating and terrifying:  death defying.

When you are facing your own mortality, you are constantly in defiance of death. I realize that sounds awfully dramatic.  Trust me, it is dramatic.  There are days that you feel as if you don’t have the courage to take another step.  But then you consider the alternative.  So today I will perform another death defying act:  I will go about my usual chores.  As I do so, I will be constantly aware of  my impending scan results, and the dangers associated with a potentially poor result.  But I will not let this awareness detract from the beauty of my daily routines, routines made more beautiful by their dearness.  When you are on the edge, everything becomes special somehow:  loaded with meaning.  Today, I am alive.  Every little thing I do today is proof of that.  And so, I celebrate the ordinary.  I will not let my fear of tomorrow get in the way of today.

6 responses to “Scanxiety, drama, and a little bit of defiance

  1. This entry of your yesterday and today is beautiful. Am going to continue reading.

    I love you, Meema

  2. WOW what a way with words. You should write a book about your journey!

  3. Parallel lives:
    Saying goodbye to a short Toronto summer.

    On ”scanxiety”: I had my CT scan 2 days after you, plus x-rays and blood tests. A trainee doctor replacing my oncologist and without the CT results said to me “Your condition is stable and that is good”. I want a printed copy of CT scan! “You can get it in one month in the next appointment”… They are every day with cancer patients but don’t understand us. I get it next week.
    Congratulations on your good scan results!

    On facing your own mortality:
    Got from the library an excellent DVD “Lessons on Living” abc interviews with sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, his mind remained lucid but physically declining to die soon after.
    A movie was made and I just ordered the book “Tuesdays with Morrie”, a best seller written by former student Mitch Albom that helped to pay Morrie’s medical debts.
    What can this old guy tell me that is going to help me when I get to a similar point?
    Many things, good for me, good for all of us. Like my daughter that has problems dealing with my advanced lung cancer and just separated after 3 years marriage.
    For me, on dying I like to talk about it, accept it, keep an open hearth.

    On living have my wife, daughters, friends and dogs around me, talk, share moments, travel.
    Love each other or die
    I love your blog, hope it brings interviews and maybe a good book.

  4. Guillermo, I’m glad your scans were stable. I, like you, want all the information in my hand–I am just more comfortable with the known than the unknown. When signing off on an email to someone I am close to, rather than closing with love, Linnea; I accidently write live, Linnea. I always find it amusing, and hopefully, prophetic. I do think love is one of the best things about being alive–so here’s to lots more of each. Take care, Linnea

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