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One Year Results

Some weeks ago I had my first annual CT scan to look for signs of new tumour growth and this week I had official confirmation in writing that the results showed nothing of concern. Big relief!

The slightly longer version of the story is that there was another shadow on my liver, so my scan had to be discussed at something called a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting (where all the experts from different fields gather together to discuss patients). But, the shadow was significantly smaller than last time and everyone was agreed that it is not a problem, but just something to monitor.

I was encouraged by the Macmillan nurse to ‘keep doing what you’re doing’, so it’s more blogging and drinking green tea for me! Here goes….

I’ve learned a new word: ‘Scanxiety’. It’s a good one, because it sums up what so many cancer patients feel each time we have scans (and people with other serious health conditions for that matter) – anxiety about scans.

I become an anxious wreck around scan times, but I’m finding good ways to cope with this. So, I thought I’d share a few of the helpful and unhelpful things that I’ve been learning. I hope these are useful to someone out there (click ‘show more’ to expand any of the points):

  • Your mind is only capable of having one thought at a time. Show MoreA counsellor pointed this out to me and, while it sounds so obvious, it’s good to keep this in mind. She advised me to “turn the volume up on the good things and this will drown out the bad”. So, when you’re facing scans or results, do the things that you know will hold your attention away from bad thoughts and ultimately make you feel good. If you can’t think of what that might be then make it your mission to find that something – that mission could be enough of a distraction. The things I’ve found to be pretty good at stopping my mind from going to negative thoughts recently has been researching my family tree. Try it, it’s quite addictive! I’ve also found that going for walks with friends, playing and listening to music, watching wholesome comedy, work (fortunately, I enjoy my job) and searching Rightmove have all been good too. If at all possible, ruthlessly avoid the things that lead to negative thinking. For me, this includes reading the news – particularly because a bad cancer story is almost guaranteed. All of this reminds me of an old letter by the bad-man-turned-good Saint Paul who wrote “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
  • Don’t Google it! Show MoreGoogle is amazing, BUT don’t search for what your aches and pains could be. Someone once said to me ‘Google always diagnoses you with cancer’ and there’s truth in that. While waiting for my results this time around I convinced myself I had peritoneal cancer as I was having pains in my side. Funnily enough the pains went after I got my results. Don’t underestimate the impact of an anxious mind upon your body. Anxiety has a lot to answer for.
  • Prayer, meditation & worship. Show MoreHonestly, I’m not good at prioritising this in my day and (please forgive me God!) but the thought of praying seems dull at times because too often it feels like a one-way conversation and there are other things I’d rather be doing. BUT, when I do make proper time for it I never regret it, especially when I incorporate stillness, waiting and trying to ’empty my mind’ into my prayer times – that is something hugely refreshing in the ‘busy busy’ world in which we live, but it seems bizarrely difficult to do. It reminds me of the words of a wise old Jewish man called Isaiah who said “Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” I’ve also found it very helpful when people have gathered to pray with/for me and I’d encourage anyone to seek that out. Also, meditation has been a great help. I’ve challenged myself to memorise a Psalm at a time and I’ve discovered that meditating on them line by line gives a completely fresh understanding of the words. I’ve written a little bit about the Psalms in a previous blog. Then there’s also the opposite of quiet meditation to consider. It has felt great to find a private place to scream! The car can be a good place for that.
  • Exercise. Show MoreThere’s LOADS on the internet about the benefits of this one, so I don’t need to add much. It’s universally known and accepted – exercise makes you feel good! The only thing I will say is that I bought a small trampoline last year and I like to bounce on that. I learned through this past year that our bodies are essentially a series of pipes and there are two main fluid systems flowing around them: the blood system and the lymph system. The blood system has a pump (the heart); but the lymphatic system does not – it relies upon movement. But it is SO important that lymph fluid moves, because it removes toxins from the body. Apparently, bouncing is one of the best ways to get the lymph system moving and you can do this in front of the telly! Also, if you’re trying to be a good friend to a cancer patient, maybe offer to go for a walk with them or accompany them to the gym. A friend accompanied me to the gym for a few months while I was getting my strength back and that meant so much to me.
  • Find others who really understand what you’re going through. Show MoreThere are a lot of support groups out there for young cancer patients (children, teenagers and their families) and for those over 50. However, there’s not so much for those in between. If, like me, you’re in that middle bracket then your hospital may be able to put you in touch with someone who’s been through what you’re going through. In my case, it has been through speaking openly about my condition that people who’ve gone through similar experiences have got in touch. Being understood can feel amazing is so valuable and definitely worth seeking out, although this one is not always easy to find. One of the benefits for me of finding someone who has gone through a similar experience has been talking to them through scanxiety times.
  • Blog! Show MoreThis can be a good way to reach out and find others in your situation, as well as update friends and family so that you don’t have to repeat stories hundreds of times! Personally, I spend more time thinking about blogging than actually doing it, but the thoughts take my mind away from scanxiety. If you’re a private person then I recommend writing a diary (I sometimes do that too) because there is something powerful about putting your thoughts down in writing – the process can change your thinking in a positive way. It helps to focus the mind. It can also be helpful to look back on what you’ve written, as it’s easy to forget that there are often positives mixed in with the negatives.

And, if you are trying to support someone you care about through scanxiety/cancer then here are a few things that I would recommend:

  • Don’t forget the partners, spouses and families. Show MorePatients often get lots of sympathy and support, but those closest to them go through scanxiety too. This can get forgotten. For me, it’s been a great comfort when I’ve known that people supporting my wife and kids. That has lifted a huge weight from my mind.
  • Send thoughtful gifts. Show MoreWhat do you give someone who has cancer? Well, there have been a few things that I’d never heard of before having cancer and the following are just some of the gifts that have stood out as things I would buy for others in a similar situation. I was given a radar key which I don’t like to use (mainly because there is a stigma around having a hidden disability); but, it’s great to have it as an option in an emergency. Someone gave me a series of talks by a guy called Chris Wark – a young guy who had beaten bowel cancer and he’s since written a best-selling book called Chris Beat Cancer which I think is a real eye-opener. Regarding food gifts, I’ve learned that many cancer patients try to eat more healthily after they’ve been diagnosed (cancer charities here in the UK recommend it). Foods that are natural, unrefined and simple are best – i.e. nothing processed, preserved, chemically-sprayed, genetically modified or with additives (check the ingredients and watch out for the refined sugars). Some healthy things that I’ve enjoyed on a regular basis have been: Clipper Organic Green Tea (I think the loose leaf option tastes nicer than bags); organic food boxes from places like Riverford or Abel & Cole; and the major UK supermarkets are now stocking more and more organic produce which is generally good. In terms of treats, dark organic chocolate has health benefits, apparently, and Green and Blacks and Eat Your Hat are great options (EYH has a turmeric and black pepper chocolate that tastes waaaaay better than it sounds – turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and black pepper helps its absorbency in the body, so give it a try!). For interesting and thoughtful little hampers check out the Goodness Project. Then, there are books. One of my favourite ‘go to’ books has been one that has nothing to do with cancer, but chimes with all of the healthy living stuff I’ve read: Bear Grylls’ ‘Fuel for Life‘. People going down the healthy route may face some big kitchen costs such as for a juicer, smoothie maker or dehydrator. You could club together with friends to offer these items. Finally, if you’re caring for someone with cancer and it has caused them to have a change in their outward appearance then clothes vouchers or accompanying them on a shopping trip might be appreciated. By the way, I’m not on commission from any of the places listed above, nor am I hinting that I would like anyone to send me these things, honestly!
  • Don’t say “Don’t worry”. Show MoreThis is easy to say but difficult to do and, quite frankly, it is irritating when people say it! Giving reasons why someone shouldn’t be worried is a much better approach. The mind of someone suffering scanxiety is often convinced that they are going to get bad results. Sometimes a rational thinker can be a blessing (credit to my wife here). But, try to be empathetic too. Give all of the reasons and stats you can about why the results may not be bad and, even if they are, how this could turn out to be a good thing. Give reasons to be hopeful and, if you have no belief in God or an afterlife, then try not to be a ‘hope killer’ to those who put hope in these things and a better world to come. 
  • Send thoughtful messages. Show MoreIt’s always nice to know when people are thinking of you. I’ve appreciated texts and emails, particularly the ones without questions and a need for a quick reply. I’ve also appreciated people being so gracious when I’ve forgotten to get back to them. One thing that was really appreciated was a card that was dropped through my door late one evening – evenings and night times can be the hardest times and messages at those times I’ve found particularly comforting. Also, the ‘remember when we…’ funny messages from old friends have been really appreciated.
  • Pray.Show MoreSure, this isn’t everyone’s thing, but I don’t know many people who would say ‘I don’t want to be prayed for’. It’s usually appreciated. When you’re facing serious illness there’s a desire for something greater and it can be frightening when you realise that science and the medical profession don’t hold all the answers. It can hurt, can it?!

So, that’s all from me this time. It’s three CT scans down and, if everything stays positive, five to go!

P.S. I’ve been asked lots of times what it is like to live with no large intestine. Just to say, I’m working on that blog post….


  1. Claire

    Thank you for my night time read while N doesn’t believe in sleeping!
    I think you should add curling up in a tree hammock to your list of things to help you relax?

  2. Natsu

    Thanks for this super helpful post, Wil. Duly noted not to make cookies in the future 😬🤦‍♀️
    Celebrating your latest scan result, grateful for the wisdom this arduous season has given you – and the ways you are using your experiences to bless others – and steadfast in confidence God has even great fruit to bless you with, in this new chapter. Praying against scanxiety and for all the remaining scans.

    • blogger

      NO! The cookies were an example of something that fitted perfectly in the ‘don’t forget the family’ section – they loved them, thanks Nat!

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