Monday, October 31, 2011

#374: Scan-ziety: The Fear of Finding Out

Available at Hope and Dreams Designs
Once you've had a positive biopsy for cancer, you can never look at tests the same way again. So I was awake at 3:30 this morning, thinking about my upcoming colonoscopy.

I don't have any symptoms or warning signs. It just seemed to me that it was time to do the thing. I know too many people who waited too long to have it done. I don't want any surprises. On the other hand, finding out is not that pleasant a process.

I first experienced Scan-ziety while waiting for results from the CT scan they ran a month after my last radiation treatment. It seemed to take for ever for the week between the test and the appointment with the doc to pass. I had already spent four weeks wondering if we had gotten it all. Now, somebody out there knew, some radiologist or something, and they weren't telling me. I remember working hard to stay positive, but that didn't stop the haunting thoughts. What if I still have cancer? What if it spread somewhere else? What if my family and I have to go through another few months like we just survived?

As it turned out, all my fears were unfounded. No new growth. Meet my new best friend, "NED," (No Evidence of Disease.) Finally, a happy ending.

It is my impression that when a person goes to war, they never really come all the way home again. Being in a firefight changes them in ways that can never be undone. Cancer is a little like that. Surviving teaches you a lot about your own strength, your own courage. When I'm working out with my LIVESTRONG friends at the gym, and things get really tough, I sometimes joke, "It's not as hard as chemo." Sometimes we all laugh, but often somebody will just nod grit their teeth, and get back to work. Nothing in an exercise class is that hard. Not once you've kicked cancer's ass. Still...

It is always there. The Possibility. Smoking? Drinking? Sexual promiscuity? Obesity? Small potatoes. Nothing puts you in a higher risk group than having had cancer once already. I met a woman at the Y last week who was on her third relapse of ovarian cancer. One of my friends is waiting to find out if she's on her fourth. The Possibility.

You wonder, will the next one be harder? Harder than surviving? Harder than coming back? Harder than a half marathon? You wonder and you worry and you watch the numbers change on the alarm clock and finally you get up and start writing about it because thinking about something else just seems impossible at the moment.

OK, let's face it. There's a lot you can say that's funny about a colonoscopy. Not in good taste, perhaps, but funny. I'm sure that in come Wednesday evening, I'll have plenty of humorous anecdotes about the prep, the procedure, and my recovery from anesthesia which is always a laugh riot. I'll write one of those posts that makes Mum roll her eyes and Mrs P say something like, "Hmmm. Not one of my favorites." We'll all have a chuckle. To tell the truth, I'm not exactly consumed with the drama of the thing, even now.

I'm just thinking about it.

Living with it.

The Possibility.

It may never arrive. It won't ever really go away. But it better think twice before coming back to our house.

We've already kicked its ass once.


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