Second Annual Checkup Looms: Does it Ever Get Any Easier?
Last updated: March 2019
I’ve been supporting and advocating for bladder cancer patients for over a year now, after I myself went through bladder cancer in 2016-2017. My experience resulting in a Radical Cystectomy on January 31st, 2017.
I try my utmost to support others through what is a tremendously difficult time in their lives. I do this by sharing my own journey, my treatments, and any hints and tips that I think others may find useful.
So, I’m sitting here on New Year’s Eve, a day where everyone is making New Year's resolutions, planning what they want to achieve. Usually these goals are “get fitter”, “lose weight”, book that foreign holiday. I have completely different thoughts going through my mind.
The anxiety starts
I awoke early this morning; I awoke to a tight chest, a “whizzy” head, and a sick feeling in my stomach. At first, I thought I may have a “tummy bug” coming on. Then I realized I remembered these feelings, and I was actually suffering from anxiety. This time of year brings back so many memories. I wasn’t consciously counting days to my second stomaversary or the imminence of my second annual checkup. But clearly, subconsciously, it must have been on my mind.
The fear of my second checkup is compounded this year, as earlier in the year I received a second cancer diagnosis. This was totally unrelated to my bladder cancer and to be honest, totally unexpected.
I was undergoing a routine annual endoscopy because I have a condition called “Barrett’s esophagus”. Everything appeared fine, the usual biopsies were taken, and that was that. Until some weeks later I received a phone call telling me I needed to come back to the hospital for further treatment as “something had shown up" in the results from the biopsies. Cutting a long story short, I had low-grade cancer cells in my esophagus, and these would need to be gotten rid of. An endoscopic procedure to remove the cells was scheduled and successfully completed.
I have always found that trying to keep my mind occupied with other things helps me to deal with my check-up anxiety. I seem to get a surge of nervous energy. So, I try and put it to good use. My husband will often find me cleaning up in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. My sons have nicknamed me the “cleaning fairy”. I personally found that doing something, anything, rather than sitting and dwelling was better for me. Plus, I got all those little jobs I’d been putting off done. It’s about how I choose to channel this nervousness within my body, as I find I can’t get involved with anything that takes to much concentration. So, cleaning it usually is!
Knowing I’m not alone
The majority of people that I interact with have exactly the same feelings. This, to some extent, does make me feel a little better. Knowing that it’s not just me that feels like this is actually a comfort. I used to think that anxiety was a sign of weakness. That was until I had something to be truly anxious about. You see, cancer doesn’t just affect your physical health, it also plays absolute havoc with your mental wellbeing.
Understanding your feelings
Knowing that I can now recognize and accept that I am suffering from anxiety does help. I now know that it will pass. I used to be scared that I would feel like this forever. But I don’t. It’s just the “normal” anxiousness of awaiting checkups.
So, does it get any easier?
Well, in some respects yes, as I can now recognize and acknowledge my feelings. I have developed my own coping mechanism (keeping busy), and I don’t beat myself up if at times I get a little emotional.
How do you cope with the anxiety of upcoming checkups?
Has cancer impacted your mood during the holidays?