- 47 years old
- Diagnosed at 43
- Rochester, NY
- Bone mets to spine and ribs
- PET/CT every 3-6 months depending
- Brain MRI every 6 months
- Scan-free intervals: 3 months minimum, 6 months maximum
Scan day is by far the most unnerving and frightening part of being a metastatic patient. It’s when you find out if the cancer has progressed and outsmarted your treatment plan, which means a more toxic plan and one less tool in the box to choose from. It could also mean less time in between scans which means more anxiety and more fear.
I am always aware of my future scan dates when I’m checking out of whatever scan I just had. The date is always in the back of my mind but the anxiety doesn’t really kick in until about a month before the actual scan date. That’s in large part because of the travel plans that need to be made in preparation for the scan. I live in western New York state and receive treatment and check-ups locally, but I have my scans and other check ups at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City where my primary oncologist is.
I try to keep busy and continue to do “normal” work and household tasks in the weeks leading up to scan day. However, the nights begin to be longer and sleep becomes more elusive. I begin to emotionally check out with friends and family the week before as I mentally prepare for the possibility of bad news. This is a coping mechanism I have come to weave into my DNA. I don’t ever want to be caught off-guard with a bad report that I know will eventually come. I need to be mentally prepared for it so I can hit the ground running and be in a place where I can focus on a new treatment plan. If I am emotionally crushed by bad news, I won’t be able to focus on what I need to do to keep moving forward. In the few days before and the day and night before I listen to a lot of music and playlists that I have created to keep me in a good headspace. I have a few superstitions that I will keep to myself for scan day, but suffice it to say that so far they have worked and the scans have come back “unremarkable.”
I just had an emergency brain MRI and my next PET/CT is in 2 months, so as I come down from a huge hill of overwhelming fear and anxiety, I’ll be charging up that hill again soon. It’s a neverending roller-coaster of coping mechanisms and anxiety meds, but I’m thankful for my playlists.
Susan Rahn is the founder, publisher, and editor of www.theunderbelly.org, an online space for women and men to read and contribute honest, raw personal accounts of life with breast cancer. Susan is an advocate for Compassion & Choices in New York State. She chronicles her experiences with metastatic breast cancer on her blog, StickIt2Stage4.