“You must be freaked out every time you get a scan and have to see the doctor.”
If you are a breast cancer survivor or someone living with metastatic breast cancer, this is something that well-meaning people say because they probably don’t know what to say.
The obvious answer is, of course, I am concerned and worried. You pray to whomever, whatever to get the clean scan and the OK from the doctor that you are good for 6 months, a year, or even more.
No one ever asked for breast cancer. I certainly DID NOT invite it in my life, and it needs to go. However, that is not my journey. I continue to be on the roller coaster of vacillating between the 3-month and 6-month of scans and back to 3-months. So how do I handle it, manage my emotions and get through it? I get through using the following seven steps before every scan:
#1 I had to make a conscious choice – “scans are my friend.” Why are they my friend? Because they are the only things that can “see inside my body” and help the doctors and me cheer when things look good, and research or make a plan when or if necessary.
#2 I now schedule my scans on Mondays and doctor appointments the Friday after the scan. This is so that I don’t have to wait to hear the results knowing that it takes 2 – 3 days to get them.
#3 I actually don’t like to talk or dwell on the upcoming scan. For me – it is a “meeting” on my calendar and I try to keep it as the important part of my ongoing project of getting rid of metastatic breast cancer. At the point of the scan, I really can’t do anything about the results, until I know them – so I just need to do it and not dwell on it. I actually dwell more on how well I will do with the IV vs. the actual scan.
#4 Mom, Dad and my sister Abby know about the schedule.
#5 Each member of my family plays a role.
- My Mom is the organizer and processer. She is on top of all scheduling; making sure I leave with copies of the scan on CD and getting the results mailed to me at home. She is the historian, the researcher and most importantly, my protector.
- My Dad, who gets scanned for his cancer, gives me his silent support and the knowledge that he has – so he gets it.
- And my sister – she just gets it. She knows that I don’t want to talk a lot about the upcoming scan the week, weekend, day before and day of my scan. And that I don’t want to dwell on it or the doctor’s appointment coming at the end of the week.
#6 I do a lot of yoga breathing before and during the scan and doctor appointment. I do a little home yoga every day. Deep breathing is such a great calm. Breathe in for a four-count and hold; then breathe out until all of the air is out, and do it again. It slows down your heart rate and really does give you a sense of calm.
#7 After my scan – on my way back to work, I try to do a little something for me before I get there. It might be a quick visit with a friend, a purchase at the local dollar store – just something to break up the path from home, to scan, to work. It is a chance for me to separate my day and put the scan in the past and know that whatever the outcome, I have great support and a great medical staff to help me.
So what do I do when someone says to me, “You must be freaked out every time you get a scan and have to see the doctor”? Well…what I want to do sometimes is ship them off to my sister so she can answer them. She is no-holds-bar protective and doesn’t put up with any crap when it comes to her family. She is beside me, in front of me and in back of me protecting me from insensitivity and unconsciously conscious people. Unfortunately, since she isn’t physically with me every day, the answer (with the strength of my family) that I say is that I am… a little. And getting scans is something that I have to do – so BRING IT ON!!!!
Amy Lessack is the director of ABC University at Amerisource Bergen. She was diagnosed in 2002 and connected with LBBC shortly after. Amy has supported us ever since. Amy has been member of LBBC’s board of directors since 2012.
Read more blog posts in this series at lbbc.org/hearmyvoice.