QCurrently, I am on an every six-month schedule for checkups with the oncologist. Although these are supposed to be routine visits, I always get anxious. This will be the tenth year of going to these appointments since I received a diagnosis of breast cancer back in 2009.
You would think I would get use to the blood work routine, the questions, the sterile environment, and the poking and prodding of my body, but I don’t. This year, I graduated to the long term survivor club with the clinic so now I will only see the nurse practitioner unless test results are not normal. Please let them be normal.
Sometimes, I try to visualize the worst case scenario so I am prepared emotionally but then I think, just focus on the positive, you idiot. You feel great, you are taking care of yourself, this is out of your control.
Another step I took this year to ease my anxiety is to schedule my oncologist appointment and my wellness exam with my family doctor all on the same day. Thinking to myself, that getting it all done on one day would minimize the number of anxious days leading up to the appointments.
To avoid bone loss, one of the common side effects of a battery of chemo treatments, I receive an infusion of a medicine through an IV to help reduce any additional bone loss. To receive the medicine, I have to enter the same massive, open floor plan infusion room that I first got chemotherapy several years ago. No problem, right? PTSD my friends.
This time, there was a man in his 30s seated across from me receiving the drug, cancer survivors call, The Red Devil. Aptly named as its victims experience hair and nail loss and extreme nautiousness and fatigue. The young man has his hands in a bucket of ice to try to save his nails while his young wife, rubs his neck gently fighting to not cry as her huge brown eyes fill with tears. I wanted to walk out then and there but my arm was also tied to an IV pole. I visualized myself in Rome looking out over the cityscape and took a deep breath, tears in my eyes too.
Another tactic I tried this time to ease anxiety is to do a 45 minute at home yoga practice the morning before the exams and I found myself a little more relaxed. At least at first. Learning to breathe helps. I also talked about my fears more with friends at work and told myself that the anxiousness I am feeling is natural and understandable based on my past experiences at the doctor and in the clinic. Also, I know the doctors want what is best for me.
It helps that Dr. Young always gives me hug at the end of the exam, she seems as releaved as me, as I skip out the clinic doors with my results of cancer free. She stays behind and treats us all everyday. I get to go home to my loved ones and try to live my best life post cancer. I hope that I will see that young man again in a year or so and we can chat about what it’s now like to experience appointment anxiety as one of the lucky ones just doing our best to handle life after a diagnosis of cancer.