Scanxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety for a moment. It’s not a new topic of conversation for me. I will say that throughout my life and ministry I have learned that way more people suffer from anxiety than those who do not.

My anxiety kicked up a few notches in my twenties. I have always been a worrier, but don’t remember any full-blown anxiety in my first twenty years. BUT the twenties eventually hit me, and I got my first panic attack in a movie theater. I walked out thinking I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor and he confirmed that I indeed experienced my first panic attack.

The next big one hit me while driving youth group kids to Michi-lu-ca (which stands for Michigan-Lutheran-Camp). Yes, I pulled over. The nurse checked me out at camp but then sent me on my way because nothing seemed wrong.

In Florida, I had another one and drove straight to the doctor. I walked in and said “It’s happening right now.” It was of course a very physical experience and this led to a whole slew of tests which ended up being, yep, anxiety.

Since then, I have learned to navigate my anxiety so well I can have a panic attack while having a conversation with you. You wouldn’t even know it! I know the signs, symptoms, and all the feels around it. I also know it’s not going to kill me. I’ve had plenty of them. When they come on, I do some major conversing with my body telling her that there is no real threat.

As I understand it, anxiety can be part of our fight or flight nature. I think back in the day, we fought, or we ran. Now-a-days most of us know we don’t have to flee or fight for our life (most of the time) so this anxiety seeps out when we’re experiencing some discord between what the body is doing/hearing/thinking and what the brains natural/learned response is to that situation.

I want to share that this past year really taught me something about anxiety.

Picture this. I’m sitting in the basement of a friend’s home. It was round four of chemo, my third week. My friends were not home, and I was feeling pretty crummy that day. The wheels started turning in my brain. What if this is it and I die right here in their basement. What if they come home and find me? Worse, they have a kid. What kind of scar would that leave on any of them or even their house? One experience like that can change everything.

Now a little background on some of my anxieties to help you understand what comes next…

Some of my anxieties include:

Taking new medications. This is not a minimal anxiety for me. Oh, the stories I have of every time I have had to take a new medication. During this process, each new medication was well thought out—when will I take it, where will I take it… Chemo was exposure therapy for this anxiety on steroids. But at the end of the day, when I had to do it, I did it. Anxiety or not.

Stress tests. I have an irrational fear of stress tests. I mean, running on a treadmill is not my thing AND they are pumping me full “medications/contrasts!” A double whammy! When I found out I had to have one, I did it. Anxiety or not.

Anesthesia. I fear anesthesia. I had a friend in high school who went in for a routine surgery. There were no complications with the surgery, but she did die from the anesthesia. And let’s just say I’ve been under anesthesia NUMEROUS times this year. I did it. Anxiety or not

I have only listed three of my triggers, but hopefully it’s enough to get the point.

Back to the basement. I was getting anxious over “what ifs.” This is anxiety. I realized that when the shit actually is going down, all the what if’s leave. It is survival. At the end of the day, I was not anxious when I was fighting for my life. I was only anxious when I was thinking about it. So, anxiety is fascinating.

Anxiety really is a big waste of time. I have done so many things I’m anxious about. When I had to do them. I just did them.

The best way I can explain this is:

When I’m anxious, it’s not really happening.

And when it’s actually happening, I’m not anxious. I’m trudging through it.

Or as my blog editor (yes, I have a friend edit before I post most of these) said, “It’s like anxiety is a warped luxury.”

Anxiety is like living in a daydream. You can make it real, super real, but it’s an unnecessary energy sucker. It’s not happening. I mean it can happen, but it’s not currently. And if it does. You’ll deal with it.

I thought about when I was sitting in an ER wondering if I was going to die last January. Anxiety wasn’t my issue. I was in pain and wanted out of it. I just did what I had to do. And that medication I feared turned out to be a life saver!

I thought about all the anesthesia I had to be under this year. Trust me, I was super anxious, but my anxiety wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I think I’ve finally realized that at the end of the day, we do what we have to do.

And if I’m anxious, it’s not actually happening. Seriously.

Are you anxious about a child dying? I’m sad to say, if it happens (and it has happened to some of you), you will go through it. Anxiety or not.

Anxious about someone breaking into your home? I pray it never happens to you, but if it does, you will go through it. Anxiety or not.

I’ve lived 20 years without anxiety.

I’ve lived another 20 years with anxiety.

I sure hope this radical cancer-experience curbs my anxiety for the next twenty, because I now really see how much of an energy sucker it has been.

Scanxiety is a term used by a lot for cancer patients. And I have a BIG one coming up… but I keep reminding myself. Whatever the results, I will go through it. Anxiety or not.

In my current daydream, that I hope becomes a reality, I’ll transition into a no cancer detected (NED) phase (Doctors apt. on December 27). I’ll choose not to live in anxiety about if it’ll come back. Because that anxiety is a waste of my limited energy. If it happens, I’ll know I can deal with it then. I did this time. Anxiety or not.

20 responses to “Scanxiety”

  1. Margaret Vredeveld Avatar
    Margaret Vredeveld

    Well said! I’ve learned to embrace anxiety as a part of my creative process. That way I can use its energy rather than allow its energy to shut me down. 💞🙏🏼💞

  2. Billie Plouff Avatar
    Billie Plouff

    Your words meant so much, Dana. I’m a bit of a worrier myself (thanks, Mom), but the anxiety only kicked in recently. I think I had my first panic attack in 2023. Everything in your message was so helpful, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! In Christ ~

  3. Susan Shock Avatar
    Susan Shock

    Been living with anxiety most of my life. Friends used to tease me about worrying so much. I don’t think they really understood. I take medicine now and do the best I can. I understand. Really I do.

  4. Jan Eversole Avatar
    Jan Eversole

    I started having panic attacks in my later thirties. A friend recommended a book, Hope and Help for Your Nerves, by Claire Weekes. You actually read it when you are having a panic attack. I don’t suffer from panic attacks much anymore (watch, I’ll have one tonight), but when I feel the start of one, I tell myself “bring it on” because I know I will make it through.

  5. Donna Avatar
    Donna

    another brilliant insight: “Anxiety really is a big waste of time”.
    Thanks Dana. You are so wise.

  6. John Soyster Avatar

    I know that “officially” you have not been working through all these months of chemo and all that has accompanied it. But the unofficial work you’ve done through these posts are an amazing gift to me and to so many. I would never wish such a journey as you’re going through on anyone. But you have not just gone through it, you’ve done so with eyes, mind, heart and soul wide open and we are the richer for it. Peace!

  7. Jan LaVake Avatar
    Jan LaVake

    I think I’ve had anxiety my whole life, but as my CPE supervisor told me, I managed it by being organized. Now, I admit it. Notice it. Call it out. Live through it and the next time, well, I handle it much better. Your story–helps. Your life–matters so much to me and the world. Your words–are Light today. Thank you.

  8. Megan Avatar
    Megan

    This is so true and so perfectly articulated.

  9. Susan Avatar
    Susan

    You hit the nail on the head.

  10. Shirley Fish Rowley Avatar
    Shirley Fish Rowley

    Pastor Dana, you are so inspiring in so many ways. You are always spot on and absorb every word you say. Do you really understand what you mean to people? Thank you for what you and keep writing!! ♥️🙏

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