Healing after Treatment

psalm 103 forsythia praise yellow green perennials spring flowers

He’s Concerned About You

The local oncology office was quiet last week when I checked in for my pre-scan appointment. I sat and watched rain trickle down the window.

“Sharon?”

There were two other people in the reception area and no one moved. I guess that would be me.

The lab tech smiled and walked me into the room where phlebotomy chairs wait for cancer people to have blood drawn. Her scrub top had a Marvel Comics theme and we talked about the finer points of Marvel vs DC Comics. I asked her what the difference was and she explained with great enthusiasm. I don’t think I can explain it back to you. She cheerfully checked my vitals and asked a few basic questions before another assistant led me down the hallway into an exam room.

“Have your medications changed?”

She showed me a list from 2013 and we updated it to show no medications in 2018.

“Okay! The doctor will be with you shortly.” The door closed quietly.

The oncologist asked a few questions about how I’m feeling (fine).

“Are you breathing okay?” The stethoscope moved methodically across my back and I was told to breathe in. Breathe out. Wait. Shouldn’t I be breathing okay?? I mean, I don’t run marathons, but I don’t need an oxygen mask walking up the hill behind our house, so…

I left the office with lab work completed and instructions to pre-register for my fifth annual CT scan since being NED (no evidence of disease) in 2013.

The visit made me feel stressed and anxious. I struggled to pinpoint the reason.

Why do they seem to *expect* you to be feeling bad physically and then act puzzled when you’re doing pretty decently well?

Why does scheduling an annual CT-scan make me feel like I have PTSD?

Why do I even need to have this scan? Ah. There it is.

My “new normal” body works differently, but it works well. Me and my current inventory of organs get along pretty okay together. What if the test inadvertently causes more problems than it solves from, say, too much radiation? The oncologist even brought that up as a long term concern. What if the scan finds a new problem? Like that stable “benign lung nodule” thing they have brought up the past two years that I never even knew I had in my possession during the entire previous six years?

Maybe I don’t need to know my current status. I feel fine. I’m not even sure I would go through more standard medical treatment if cancer were to return. Let’s leave well enough alone. These are the frantic thoughts in my head one week each year.

Actually I think this way almost every week in the year, but there is only one week when I have to decide how strongly I really feel about the potential ramifications of medical procedures. This is why personal blogs are useful so one can write the words they don’t want to be heard shouting out loud to kind medical professionals doing their jobs.

And who, in the medical world, cares about my cancer-recovery-related concerns?

I left the office determined to eat more plants, juice more carrots, and to earnestly examine my stash of essential oils for ones I know may specifically support my efforts to stay above a particular wellness line.

Well-being – in spite of our physical circumstances – is a conversation that starts inside of us. Me. You.

I’m learning through this continuing process to speak praise from my inmost being to God. HE is the one who satisfies my desires with good things even when I may want to fear the worst. He is always concerned about me in the big frantic obvious things and the little quiet subtle things of life.

Psalm 103:1-5 says,

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Read Psalm 103 Here

I’ve been listening to CeCe Winans on Pandora and last week I heard this song for the very first time. God cares enough to send unexpected gifts that minister to us on a very personal level.

God is concerned about me.

God is also concerned about you.

Click the image to play this subtle and beautiful reminder of God’s loving concern:

Lyrics for “He’s Concerned” by CeCe Winans:

God is, just a prayer away
All you need to do is call
He will hear, your faintest cry
He’s concerned about you

So while your tears are flowing through
Your time of mourning
He is here to lift your heavy heart
‘Cause He’s in love with you

He knows
He cares
He sees
He’s there
And He’ll carry you
He’s concerned about you

Weeping may endure for the night

But the morning will bring joy
He won’t give, you more than you can bear
He’s concerned about you

He loves you, oh yes
He loves you, ooooo
He loves you, I know He does, He really does
He’s concerned about you

He knows
He cares
He sees
He’s there
He’ll carry you
He’s concerned about you

He knows
He cares
He sees
He’s there
He’ll carry you
He’s concerned about you


stage four colon cancer survivorSharon O’Connor is a wife, mom, and stage 4 colon cancer survivor. She loves coffee, writing, playing piano, and taking walks with her husband, Tom, and their adopted Pug-Maltese mix, Ace. Sharon is grateful for wellness support strategies that work and that have helped support her personal journey with cancer.

[ More about Sharon ]

Scanxiety Rule #2

Philippians 4:6-7 be anxious for nothing cancer scan pet scan scanxiety

“Wow. There’s a word for it. It’s called ‘Scanxiety’.”

“What?” Tom asked. I was staring at the computer screen. Tom was watching the Waltons and scrolling through Facebook. That’s how we roll on cold winter evenings with a warm fire flickering close by.

“Scanxiety. It’s an actual “thing” to describe how cancer patients may feel about going back for scans after treatment is over, even years later,” I said.

I was feeling a little wounded at the thought of scheduling my annual PET scan. The thoughts went something like this:

1. It’s not about learning whether or not they see any cancer, as much as it is about all that has happened before – a little emotional PTSD after the physical cancer-war armistice.

2. The doctors don’t “get”, or have time to get, my personal journey and all I’ve been through (and all ANY cancer patient and their families have been through, some far more than me). And I suppose it’s not their job to get it. The surgeries, colostomy, ileostomy, take-down, chemo, radiation, and physical after-shocks from medical treatment that still linger in a more muted way; determination to juice when cancer returned and refusal to do exactly what doctors told me until I had peace about my decision on how to proceed; God’s kindness in allowing the second round of treatment + juicing and supplements to show no cancer; fatigue and occasional mental block that I suspect are lingering gifts from medical treatment; a body that has done remarkably well in recovering but that groans and creaks in ways beyond “just being over 40”. And, finally, the mental and emotional exhaustion at the thought of maybe, possibly, having to cope with it all again if the scan shows something I don’t want to know is lurking in my cells.

3. The awareness that all of #2 is a small price to pay for the luxury of living and being in the lives of my family.

4. The realization that #3 is true, followed by an irritation that wonders if the physical and emotional price we deem acceptable is still way too high for cancer survivors to pay from successful – or unsuccessful – standard medical “treatment”. Isn’t there something about “do no harm” in some oath somewhere? Chemo and radiation do great harm on the march to obliterate rebel cells.

5. And finally, the plain selfish truth is that I’ve started… slowly… feeling like I’m not defined by the cancer. Calling to schedule a scan pulls me right back emotionally, mentally, and maybe physically, into still being a cancer patient. Which, I suppose, I still am. Drats.

“So what does ‘scanxiety’ mean?” Tom asked.

“It’s a noun that scanxietymeans the tension which builds, particularly among those who have or have had cancer, as they move towards their regular check up scan – hyper-scanxiety being the period as they await results.” I gave up reading and went into the world of the Waltons for the rest of the evening. And maybe a little Lawrence Welk.

A day or two later I finally called The City and asked if they could schedule my scan Locally. Tom’s advice, after listening to me spout off about my scanxiety, was, let’s schedule it where I feel comfortable. I should be able to get the scan locally and have results sent to the city; if there is a problem, we’d go from there. One piece of the scanxiety puzzle potentially solved – staying close to home. A bit of control in the uncontrollable.

“What is your name please?” the attendant responded when I called The City. I cautiously stated my desire to have the scan close to home. She went on to say, in a nice voice that sounded slightly like she had said this many times before, “You can ask to have the scan done locally; but the doctor here will determine if they will allow that request. If so, they will send the order to the place you want to have the scan. What is the name of that facility?”

I gave her the name of the facility. Three days later we’re still waiting for a response to my request. Clearly, they don’t follow Scanxiety Rule #1: Let’s not not call a cancer survivor back for three days… five by the time we get past the weekend… in response to a stressful scheduling phone call request.

Scanxiety Rule #2:Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

How about you? Do you deal with scanxiety when you have a scan coming up? What helps you most?

PS: This summer I moved the “Sustain Me: Notes on Cancer” blog over to this new site: http://www.cancersmarts.net. So if you’re seeing “Cancer Smarts”, that’s still “me”. Thanks for reading!