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RC Check-Up Anxiety: How I Coped

So, it’s time for that first annual check-up after my radical cystectomy. I knew what to expect: blood tests, a renogram and a CT scan of the chest and abdomen.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the psychological effect that these tests would have on me and my family.

I received the expected letter, requesting I attend an appointment with the Professor who had performed my RC, just over a year earlier. So the appointment was made, and I was due to go in two weeks time.

Results of a private scan

What I haven’t mentioned so far is that one month earlier, I had paid for a full top-to-toe body scan in India, to allay my fears that the cancer may have returned somewhere else in my body. (This seems to be a thing all us former cancer patients worry about).

I attended a private medical center in India and spent the next three hours undergoing a series of MRI, CT and ultrasound scans. Upon completion of the various scans, I got dressed and then went back into the waiting room, were my husband and son were waiting for me.

Copies of various scan pictures were handed to me in a huge white plastic carrier bag, along with a CD containing all of the images. I would receive a written report via e-mail on the scans within a week.

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Receiving distressing results

Results arrived, and a large mass had been identified in the pelvic wall of unknown origin. This news completely floored me, had me in floods of tears, convinced that somehow the “cancer was back.”

It’s funny, but before I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, a cancer diagnosis never crossed my mind. Now I fear all my little aches and pains are cancer!

I immediately emailed a copy of the scan to my Professor, clearly showing a large white mass in the pelvic wall. He quickly got back to me saying “it isn’t malignant” and more than likely just a build up of lymphatic fluid as a number of lymph nodes were removed during my RC. Did I feel relieved with this response? No, not really; I was terrified that it was something more serious. The Professor advised that he would see me on the appointment date and no need to come any sooner.

Dealing with the anxiety of “waiting”

Those all too familiar feelings of fear had hit me again. The sickening to the stomach, dizzy in the head kind of feelings had returned. Only this time, I understood these feelings, they were feeling of “extreme anxiety”.

I needed to practice some “aversion therapy.” By this, I mean involving myself in something that didn’t require too much concentration, but would take my mind off “my worries.” I had a small basket on my dressing table and in it was the following:

My "aversion therapy" kit

My favorite cleanser, toner, face pack, face serum, Vaseline, eyebrow dye kit, flannel, and cleansing wipes. My very own DIY facial kit, ready to pick up and use. TIP: you can very often get tester or travel size of most of the products I listed by signing up to “Freebie” sites, freebies in magazines, or signing up to cosmetic company websites. This too takes up some of that “worrying” time. Basically it’s about having “things” to distract you away from the anxiety caused by waiting, whether it be knitting, crochet, puzzles, or a new hobby. Have the required equipment ready, then at times of stress, you can just pull out a box and get on with some aversion therapy.

I didn’t want reminding that my life was “on hold” for the next month or so. Scared of making plans in case the dreaded “C” is back. Planning how I would cope with a further cancer diagnosis is not something I’d ever thought about before, but now it was a possibility and something I couldn’t get out of my head.

The appointment day

So I hadn’t slept properly for a number of nights. The date with my “Professor” had finally arrived. A friend drove me and hubby to the appointment. It was a tense drive. However, my friend is very chatty and made the one hour journey go much more quickly. She had even got me a gift. A few days earlier, I had commented that I really liked her earrings. As I got into the car, she passed me a small bag. In it, a pair of earrings, just like the ones I had commented on. How lucky am I? Good family and friends. My feelings of anxiety changed to those of thankfulness. Thankful for all the genuine, caring people in my life.

My consultation

Well I didn’t have to wait very long to see the Professor. I was called in within a few minutes. I entered his office, sweating and feeling physically sick. Will these check ups ever get any easier? He very quickly told me that everything was “ok,” and that my husband wouldn’t need to trade me in for a new model just yet. The relief I felt was unbelievable, the biggest smile came across my face. Phew, just got to do it all again next year now. How do you cope with the anxiety of waiting for appointments and results? Do you have any hints to share? I would love to hear from the community.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The BladderCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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