This excerpt from my memoir discusses the difficulties of  “the wilderness”- the post-treatment zone of incurable cancer- with a glimpse of events from just last week. Note: “scanxiety” is what the cancer-world calls anxiety about scan results.


Everyday life became nuanced.  Was that bump on my head related to my cancer? Was that sore in my mouth a cancer spot secondary to my radiation treatment? Was that squeezing headache an indication of tumor regrowth or just a normal tension headache? Should I be this tired?  

Just last week- a phone call came from my oncologist’s office that he wants to see me in person this appointment (last time was by phone) even though we are in the thick of Covid-19 restrictions.  

“In-person?” I inquired frantically hoping for an indication that this was normal protocol, which of course the office assistant was not tasked to provide. 

“Yes, he’ll see you Thursday at 11AM. Have a good day!” She chirped.  

Even though I had just been talking to my mom earlier that morning mentioning that I wouldn’t be surprised if my oncologist wanted to see me in person because it had been a year since he had seen me, I frantically hung up the phone and immediately messaged my husband at work : 

“Dr. Z wants to see me in person! And you can’t come because of Covid restrictions, I’m nervous.” 

Bad news is delivered in person (been there before) good news is given by phone (been there too).  My heart pounded in my chest and the negative thought-reel began rolling until I caught myself.  “I’ve been here before” I remembered.  “Worrying won’t help my situation and it certainly will make it worse.  Who can add a day to their life by worrying? no one!” Though over the years I’ve become practiced at squashing these thoughts, they still always appear.

My husband called, “yeah I’m playing mind games too” he admitted. “I figure if it was bad news they’d let me come into the appointment too.”

The following day I wasn’t overtly aware of the stress of my upcoming appointment, it seemed as if I had learned how to manage this now.  Yet, when it was time to pick my kids up from school, I didn’t want to go get them; I needed more quiet.  But kids are not something that you can just brush aside and so get them I did.  Children are noisy, demanding, and at times all too whiny.  My son was “hangry” -hungry and combative- and my patience was non-existent; I was short fused, easily irritated and I didn’t know why.  After my kids went to bed it dawned on me: though I no longer felt overtly stressed by my upcoming oncologist appointment, my subconscious was still holding stress.  I had won the battle with my rational brain, but my subconscious was still “winning.”

  I went to bed and awoke the next day with a few minutes to spare, space I intentionally create for grounding myself in quiet reflection before embarking on my day.  As I sat in the stillness of the early morning it dawned on me, if my issue was in my subconscious, I needed to feel my way through this!  I had recently learned from reading The Body Keeps Score that converse to our rational, thinking brain that sorts out information into a “coherent story” our “emotional brain” “registers a different truth: how we experience the situation deep inside.”  This is an inner experience that is “based primarily in physical sensations” and is not easily described in language”. (1)  My meditative quiet morning time is a necessary space where I can access these “feelings” to make sense of my life.   

I sat there, with my guard down, open to feeling my feelings.  In my journal I penned, 


“this scanxiety -or whatever you want to call it- is hard and today I’m not going to pretend that it is not!…God give me grace for my kids today”


 I pleaded with my hands open knowing I needed to receive divine help.  Before more words came to describe my feelings an image appeared in my mind.  It was Mother God (she is how I experience my Divine, Higher Power); into my empty palms she placed a bundle of sunny dandelions, like the ones my kids like to pick in springtime grass. 


Mother God’s gesture spoke volumes: Cheryl, you’re in the dandelions! -The dandelions, of course!     The dandelions call me to be present right where I am, to find beauty and wonder here.  To engage mindfulness which is the precursor to gratitude, (a powerhouse I discuss in depth in my chapter on grace in my memoir)  Gratitude is a game changer.  When my children are out of control and their emotions have run away on them, my husband and I have a list of measures we have the children use to calm down, listing 5-10 things they are grateful for tops the list.  Like a child, I am reminded to immerse myself in mindfulness, wonder and gratitude so I can survey my situation with a thankful heart.

Furthermore, dandelions are a symbol of imagination.  Children’s imaginations allow them to blow dandelion puff wishes into the breeze with delight, believing that the impossible is possible.  Imagination allows us to create a path forwards where none exists.  

With an embrace from Mother God, dandelions in my hands, I knew that I could press beyond scanxiety calmly into the day.




As we drove through the Fraser Valley on the mountain-lined highway towards my oncologist’s office, I noticed my chest tighten.  I was calm, but I was still afraid of the cancer coming back.  

Kindly, I assured myself, “Cheryl, it’s reasonable to always be afraid of that!”  

The difference now is that fear doesn’t get the final say;  when it appears I can now say, “hello fear, I see you.” I’m no longer terrified of fear itself.  That is a miraculous difference.    










GOOD NEWS!!!!  NO SIGNS OF TUMOR REGROWTH!  By the grace of God, a bit of pixie dust (aka luck), and the lifestyle changes I’ve implemented there’s no detectable signs of cancer in my brain!  Today we can celebrate together and, as always, thanks for joining me on the journey, I appreciate your company.






  1. The Body Keeps Score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma.  by Bessel van der Kolk.  p. 238-239   (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS EXCELLENT BOOK!)
  2. Dandelions are extremely symbolic in my cancer journey; I discuss their significance along with mindfulness, grace, gratitude, and imagination in depth in my memoir.