As a cancer survivor- do the words above make your skin crawl?

They never used to bother me much, but following a cancer diagnosis, these words are almost always followed by some sort of procedure- likely a scan- because rather than make assumptions, the direction is to err on the side of caution, just to be safe.

On one hand, it is certainly not super helpful to leave the unknown up to your imagination. When it comes to cancer, it is really hard not to fear the worst when you are facing uncertainty. Staying totally zen when your onc has found something that they want to “take a look at” is a high expectation to have of yourself, and if you try to cling to that expectation- the internal reaction is likely to be more intense. As I have written before, our feelings are messengers, and they do not appreciate being ignored.

On the other hand, hearing the plan that unfolds from the desire “to be safe”, has you staring straight into the abyss. If you were to imagine that the only way across the abyss was the finest of tightropes, you would be compelled to walk it and likely it would scare the heck out of you. Yet it would be far more logical to cross the abyss using the tightrope, rather than trying to run and jump over it.

When your onc suggests a scan, just to be safe, it is in service of trying to find out important facts- rather than working off of hypothesis. This is crucial, yes, but the tests that follow stir the massive pot of SCANxiety, which in turn requires you to slow down and find a way to support yourself through it.

You may be wondering- how can I support myself through it? Being a big believer in only using compartmentalization as a last resort- this means finding ways to sit with the turmoil within, without getting attached to the thoughts and feelings that are mostly reacting to fear. A tall order.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you are not going to be surprised that I am advocating for art making and creativity as a critical part of supporting yourself. If you want to learn how, I highly recommend you check out the virtual workshop I am running in September, SCANxiety: Taming the BEAST thru art. You can read all about it by clicking here. I hope you can make it!

-Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, she works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program, workshops, and this weekly blog. Check out the individual packages, the self assessment tool, and virtual workshops.  Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.