Post #14 – Scan-xiety

Scan-xiety – noun  [scaŋ-ˈzī-ə-tē]

There are so many new things to learn – not the least of which is a new cancer vocabulary. New words and phrases are bandied about by the professionals as if they are totally normal – but they are not normal. Talking about one’s Tracheobronchial tree or the benefits of a Portacath are not normal. Nor are casual discussions about palliative care, the possible allergic reactions to imaging agents or the inherent dangers in developing leukopenia. Not normal at all.

Often, I will look at my medical reports and try to make heads of tails of things like “An aggressive osseous legion” or “A negative mycology culture”, working like an Egyptian archeologist deciphering hieroglyphics… stitching together the bits and pieces to ferret out the hidden messages therein.

It is a wild new language that we are learning to speak – like Spanglish.

I have found most often, the bad stuff is pretty obvious. You don’t need to know what “Osseous Legions” are to know that they’re bad and you dont want them. It’s just another f-ed up way of saying “Sick”.

And just like in the ancient pyramids, it’s the gold that you are digging for… the elusive golden fleeced “good news”.

It all comes with the territory in my ongoing effort to become an expert in getting well.


The newest term we have just learned is one that every chemo patient inevitably comes to understand all too well:


During one’s treatment there comes a point at which you have to go in to test whether or not the medicine is working. You check to see if it is working and how well it is working by getting a scan. It might be a CT Scan, a Pet Scan, an MRI or some combination of the three.

Typically, once you have gone in for your scan, you have to wait for the results. Strangely, in the land of everything being so damned complicated – your scan results all boil down to 4 very clear outcomes: Progressive, Minor response, Major response or Complete response. It is here that the anxiety starts to settle in upon you.

You try to prepare yourself for the news that you know is coming. You start to envision every terrible thing that the doctor might say. Progressive means you failed – the rest are all ok. Even with a 3 to 1 ratio, you dare not get your hopes up, lest you get dashed with poor results. This is Scan-xiety.

I have heard tale that some people experience this so severely that they purposefully avoid getting scans… they would rather not know. I was raised Roman Catholic – so my version of Scan-xiety is laden with Catholic guilt mixed with some twisted form of eastern quasi-religious Karmic belief. I dutifully go to get the scan – and then fret about it – spiraling into the darkness.  I start to think about every thank you note that I was too lazy to write.  Every time I forgot to bring the trash out the night before and every time I laid in bed listening to the garbage truck going by in the morning. Every time I have kicked the dog. Every time I lied. Every mean thought I have ever thought…

Corny as it may sound – Hope is the only cure against the darkness. There is little you can do to fend off the dark thoughts of Scan-xiety but to fight them back with blind faith and hope.

With that in mind – here is a quote for the week:

“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

I am going in this Friday for my first scan to see where we are at.

Say a little quasi-religious prayer for me.