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  • Kristen Herring-Asleson

Flashback to "Scanxiety" Week! But I'm Still Here!

(Written 9/13/18)


Mammogram. The word that instills fear in many, many women. What is the root, or roots, of the fear?


There were two factors for me. First and foremost was I have a serious fear of someone causing pain on purpose. I have had six children, and as silly as this sounds, I was more afraid of the procedures necessary to alleviate pain during childbirth than of giving birth itself. Secondly, my birth mother has had breast cancer resulting in a double mastectomy, and my birth aunt passed away at the young age of 43 from breast cancer.

For many women, the fear of a cancer diagnosis makes them pack their schedules so tight there is no time for a mammogram. In addition, most women know someone who has had breast cancer and have watched their difficult, painful journeys unwind.


In 2016 it took three daughters, two mothers, two sisters and a handful of others to nearly physically carry me to my mammogram screening after they heard I had skipped an appointment or two. As frightened as I was, it did not hurt as I heard it would, and my screens came up dense, but normal.


Fast-forward to this past week when I went for another mammogram after the recommended amount of time had passed. I went confidently into the room with the hulking machine knowing the pain was not a factor any longer, and I would be in and out in minutes. Little did I know my confidence would come crashing down within an hour as I was called to return for more scans.


Last Friday, I returned again for more scans, and upon completion was asked to sit in the waiting room for the radiologist to confirm the images were enough. Yet again, within a half hour I was called back to take more images and meet with the radiologist. Twenty minutes later I sat with a doctor who calmly, politely, and very professionally explained the results of the images taken would require a needle biopsy.


Tears burned my eyes but would not roll down my cheeks as he asked if I had any questions. In shock, I simply said no.


Alone in my car, the drive home was quieter than usual. By the time I got back to Lanesboro, my fear and anxiety was through the roof. I had texted the results of the appointment to family members, but it was not until later that afternoon that I was able to verbalize my thoughts to a friend. This friend is going through a cancer journey of her own with her husband. She understood my fear, and she put a name to it.


"Scanxiety."


Scanxiety is real. This past week at work has been a blur. I performed the duties necessary to run a coffee house, but it was in a thick haze of fear and worry. Worst-case scenarios raged in my head, exacerbating said "scanxiety."


Today is the day I go back from my needle biopsy, and needless to say my behavior is not at its best. I have pushed people away, I have said things I should not have said, and have been short with those who do not deserve it. I can only hope that the medical staff who treat me today are as great as those who took care of me this past week. Every person I encountered on Gonda 2 South displayed the utmost kindness, concern and professionalism one could hope for.


It’s not always easy to do the same thing all day, every day and display the attitudes they all had. For those women and their workplace manners, I am grateful.


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