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Olympic Swimmer Nathan Adrian Nails the ‘Scan-Xiety’ of Life After Cancer Treatment

Just because you’re in remission from cancer, doesn’t mean cancer isn’t still a part of your life. The anxiety or depression you felt during your treatment can continue long after you’re “finished.” Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian recently shared the mental health symptoms he’s feeling despite the fact that he is in remission. No matter what type of cancer you have or where you are in your journey, you may be able to relate.

A five-time Olympic gold medalist, Adrian first revealed his testicular cancer diagnosis in January. After undergoing treatment, he’s now in the “post-cancer” phase. But as he told People magazine on Monday, “scan-xiety is a real thing.”

“Scan-xiety” is a term used to describe the anxiety people often feel when they have to undergo medical testing or are waiting to hear back about the results.

“We have to be on this close surveillance protocol because it could come back,” Adrian said. “My journey with this is not over. It’s finally nice to hear good things from the doctors because that’s always a scary call to answer. I know when a random 401 number calls me, I pick it up right away. I’m still very much in it.”

Adrian also opened up about the particular anxiety men may feel about health issues involving the genital area, like testicular cancer. He said he called up a lot of urologists and almost all of them had stories about people waiting to see doctors, especially for issues that aren’t necessarily painful. He said he related to an article a friend showed him about why men often wait to seek out treatment, sometimes until it’s too late.

“One of the reasons is that they connect masculinity with properly functioning genitals,” Adrian said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s totally true.’”

Feeling depression or anxiety (or both) after getting a cancer diagnosis is very common — studies have shown twice as many cancer survivors take medicine for anxiety than people who have never had cancer. One in three experience a clinically-defined emotional disorder like anxiety, depression or mood or adjustment disorder. You might feel pressured to “snap out of it” once you’re in remission, but as Abby Stern explained in an essay on The Mighty, you don’t have to feel guilty for surviving or pretend to be OK when you’re not.

Cancer is behind us.
Our hair is back.
Our scars are no longer purple.
The port is gone.
(Yet we never get rid of our little blue radiation tattoos.)

But here we are.
Fearful.
And sometimes sad.
Occasionally guilt ridden.
Frequently angry.

We have no right to be fearful and sad because we are NED.

I call bullshit.

Of course we have the right.

For more insight into the ways cancer can mess with your mental health (and how to cope), check out these stories from the Mighty community: