About two months ago, The Canadian Cancer Society approached me. A cancerconnections.ca moderator was taking a digital story workshop. She needed a guinea pig to coach on how to produce a digital story. She asked if I would be her student. How could I turn down a chance to tell my story? And digitally was a bonus.
As the date grew closer, I was waiting for a followup CT scan. I told the moderator that if it went badly I might not be able to do the workshop. She shared that with the workshop leader and he wondered out loud if I might be willing to talk about scan anxiety. She asked me what I wanted to talk about. I suggested that I had been thinking about "Scanxiety." We realized that was too much to be coincidence. Then I shared my idea of using sailing as a metaphor for the story. Apparently that had come up too. It was more coincidence and so the idea was born.
We did the virtual workshop with me in Vancouver and the coach in Hamilton. Zoom for six hours on each of the two days of the workshop made for long exhausting days.
The writing work started with exploring the idea. I talked about the phases of anxiety that I felt, how I coped with it, and how I saw it fitting with sailing. I wanted to talk about dying and I wanted to talk about palliative care. The next trick was to fit the idea into three minutes.
After a couple of hours of brainstorming, I took the discussion and wrote the narrative. The moderator describes watching me do this as an incredible experience. I opened a text editor and wrote a thousand words. She says it took about ten minutes. I think it took a wee bit longer.
But no mind it was ten minutes long when I read it for the first time. The goal was three minutes. Out came the axe. The first cut took off three minutes. The second pass took another three minutes. One of my editor friends loves to talk about the "little darlings." Things dropped out and the writing got tighter and tighter.
We couldn't seem to get below four minutes. We called in the workshop facilitator. He thought the that the story was compelling. We couldn't tighten up any more without losing major elements.
And so as our final act of the first day we recorded it. We talked as we went along about what kind of pictures and video would fit into the narrative. I took a nap and slept for four hours before hunting for sailing pictures that would fit with the story.
The next morning we heard the cooling fan on my laptop in the background with a rumble. A quick rerecording with the fan turned off and then it was picture time. We opened the video editor and started dropping in the pictures and video. This was the hardest part for me. I am so accustomed to doing this for myself that looking over my coach's shoulder was hard. I kept reaching for the track pad to tweak something. It became a running joke through the day as I learned lessons about letting someone else take charge.
At the end of the day we had a "pretty good product." The moderator took it and added the video movement and created smoother transitions. We had a screening of the four workshop stories on the following Tuesday.
The reaction has been incredible already. I hope the story will help caregivers and health care providers understand scanxiety. This powerful anxiety touches most cancer patients. For patients I hope that it resonates with them. and helps them know that they are not alone in the emotions that they experience.
If I have a regret it is that I didn't talk about one of the most important mechanisms for me in coping with scanxiety. Gratitude. Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)talks about it this way:
"Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. "
My prayer for this video is that it would provide comfort and peace and understanding to those who watch it.
Oh and the link? YouTube Link