Q: I have a bone marrow biopsy coming up in a few weeks and the closer it gets the harder it is to sleep. I have been snappy with my family and feel like I keep noticing new symptoms every day. What is going on with me?
A: People frequently have anxiety when scans and tests are coming up. In fact, some people call it “scanxiety.” What you’re experiencing is your mind’s natural response to a threat. This is helpful in cases where a bus is coming towards us and we need to jump out of the way, but can feel challenging when we have the same physical responses when the threat is very different. It can feel liberating for some people just to realize that that’s what is happening in our brains and then, when we notice it, to take the opportunity to reground ourselves. (Judy, Retired BMT Chaplain)
Q: I have scans and biopsies all the time. How can I manage my scanxiety?
A: It’s been helpful for me to pay attention to my body and emotions and to realize when the scanxiety is affecting me. When I notice it, I work to find things to distract me without over exhausting me. I have also found a few friends who just let me talk in circles about all the things I worry about and they don’t ever shut me down or mind if I’m repeating myself. (Jasmine, BMT patient, 28)
Some simple practices that can help people feel less shut down by anxiety are meditation, evoking experiences of awe, and being in nature. (Judy, Retired BMT Chaplain)
Q: My wife has scans coming up and she’s so jittery and on edge. How can I support her?
A: Acknowledge her feelings and that it must be hard to know those scans are on the calendar. Be careful not to bring logic or statistics into the mix. Telling her all the reasons she shouldn’t worry rarely helps. Instead, ask if there are things she can imagine might be helpful distractions to help her get through the upcoming days. Plan something fun to look forward to so that the scans aren’t the only things on the calendar. Reassure her that whatever the outcome of the scans, you’ll be right there by her side. (Allison, Caregiver, 40)