This is a deeply personal blog. In it, I’m sharing an important health update, as well as some hard-earned tips for how to navigate the fear of medical tests and scan anxiety. Though this post is specific to my cancer journey, these tools can be applied to lots of other scary shit pickles. 🙂
A few months ago, I realized that I was overdue for my 2-year CAT scan, blood tests and visit with my oncologist. My first thought was: “Damn it! I don’t have time for this. I’m just too busy.” But I quickly realized that “I’m too busy” is an affirmation. It sends a message to my body that I’m not a priority, my health isn’t important and neither is my life. That message certainly isn’t in alignment with my love for myself or my health goals—I needed to flip the script, posthaste!
So I quickly reached for better thoughts by telling myself that my health and safety are my top priorities, and that nothing would get in the way of me taking care of myself. Then I made self-care accountability a topic on a recent Wellness Wednesday live broadcast. I asked for you to hold me accountable for making and going to these extremely important appointments.
Pssst… I also encouraged you to schedule any health check-ups you’ve been blowing off. Have you done that yet, dear one?
Something I didn’t share during that Wellness Wednesday is that I was very anxious about that appointment. Maybe my heightened emotions were influenced by the fear I have around my dad’s journey with pancreatic cancer and how helpless I feel at times. Or maybe it was because I’ve been feeling some new pains in my rib cage, which had me wondering if my disease had finally spread to my bones. Or perhaps it was that strange lump in my arm that was secretly freaking me the F out.
Or maybe it was that I’d just agreed to some exciting opportunities this fall, and in the back of my mind I was afraid that my disease had finally woken up and become aggressive. That would mean pressing pause and putting my full focus on my health—again.
As you can tell, there’s been a lot of uncertainty swirling around in my mind. While I’m skilled at staying grounded and not catastrophizing, these symptoms and fears put my practice to the test!
That’s the thing about being a cancer patient. Every little ache, pain or sneeze can send you into a tailspin of sweaty worry. And when that happens, we need tools to help diffuse those emotions before they totally take over and spread like a nasty contagion.
So here’s what I did to calm myself down, return to my center and connect with my heart.
When I got to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for my appointment (yes, the self-care accountability did help!), I hunkered down in the public bathroom (a spiffy place, by the way!) and did two things.
First, I looked in the mirror, stared deeply into my own green eyes and with all the compassion I could muster, I said:
“I love you. I’m here for you. Whatever happens, we’ve got this. We’ll figure it out. I’ve got your back and I always will. I love you.”
Deep breath… And another… And yet another.
I kept breathing and repeating those words over and over again until I could feel the butterflies (no, more like gassy dragons!) in my stomach calm down. And they did.
Second, I started to make a mental list of all the things that are right with me. Sure, I have dozens of tumors in my lungs and liver, a weird pain in my ribs and a strange lump in my arm, but there are so many parts of me that are working exceptionally—including those that are struggling. This simple exercise brought me back to a place of gratitude for all that is working in my life. And when you’re in gratitude, it’s harder to be in anxiety.
The next time you feel out of control or like the floor is about to fall out from under you, try these tips. They may seem hokey or woo-woo, but believe me, these little exercises are powerful soul medicine.
Ok, and now for the news: All is well. Cue the band!
The lump in my arm is a harmless fatty tumor, there’s nothing going on with my rib cage (looks like I pulled a muscle while using my favorite workout app—no further metastasis, I’m just out of shape, lol), and the tumors in my liver and lungs are still stable. Deep sigh… I’ve been living with this strange stage IV sarcoma for more years than I thought I would, and all truly is well.
But there’s more! My oncologist felt confident enough to suggest that I could come back in 3-5 years (I’ve been going every 2 years or more since getting diagnosed). What?! That’s like a lifetime to me. I never thought he’d say something like that or that I could experience that much time (and freedom) between hospital visits. Tears…
In his words, “we’re just thrilled.” After comparing 16 years of scans, the consensus is that even though I still have cancer, I’m well enough and it’s indolent enough to give me more breathing room—and I’ll gratefully take it.
Plus, I also learned that there’s a clinical trial underway for my disease (epithelioid hemangioendothelioma). The first of its kind. So that’s some potential progress for my rare sarcoma and all the patients who live with it—some of whom have a more aggressive form.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to share this news with you all, especially those of you who have followed my journey since the beginning. Though I don’t write about cancer as much as I used to, it’s still always in the background of my mind and it always will be. It continues to teach me, and I continue to define myself by my values, desires, goals and love—not cancer.
Join me on social!
I share simple ways you take impeccable care of yourself—body, mind and soul. Instagram and Facebook. I did a Wellness Wednesday episode on this topic and shared more tips for dealing with health anxiety—check out the replay here!
Thanks again for supporting me, friends. And don’t forget to make your well-being a priority. Book those doctor appointments and do whatever else you need to do. The world needs you (and so do I).
Peace & deep gratitude,