In the same way we can imagine beautiful futures like a cure for cancer and watching our grandchildren thrive, we can imagine the most awful futures: disease progression, painful treatment, devastating side effects, dying.

Imagination is a uniquely human capacity, designed to help us anticipate the future and plan accordingly. But sometimes we imagine the possibilities and let them scare the bejeebers out of us, without taking the next step and doing the planning.

I believe one of the biggest reasons we have such fear about upcoming scans—“scanxiety”—is that when we think about test results, we not only imagine the worst, we assume that we will not be able to cope with it. That we will be helpless bystanders and overwhelmed victims of what we learn.

Instead, let’s talk about all the ways you–all of us–can plan and cope.

Here’s what I recommend

First, think about what you have overcome so far in your life. I imagine it’s a lot. Write down a few of those tough situations, leaving a few lines between each one.

Then think about the strengths and inner resources you used to pull you through those hard times. Name and write down any inner assets that helped you cope.

Did you rely on hope? Persistence? Digging for information? Humor? Your spirituality? Courage? Love for your family? The support of friends? Teamwork? Perspective?

These same qualities are the ones that will help you deal with any new challenge that comes your way.

A great way to find out more about your strengths is by taking the VIA Assessment of Character Strengths, which can be done for free at (an inexpensive but very informative report is also available). It’s been taken by more than 15 million people worldwide and is one of my very favorite tools for helping people discover what makes them strong.

After taking the survey, add some of your new-found strengths to step two, above. Feel how empowering it can be to know that you can tap into all these qualities any time. They are baked into your personality and available at a moment’s notice.


Next time you begin over-imagining the awful things that could happen, remember two things: One: You get to choose the stories you tell yourself, and Two: You are equipped to handle what comes your way.

Wishing you strength and a calm mind and body.


Do you need kind, compassionate support to bounce back from a negative experience? If so, then get in touch with me now, and let’s make the most of your precious time, energy and love. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kristen Carter

Kristen Carter, Certified coach, author, and breast cancer survivor. More

Self-Love Comes First

Self-Love Comes First

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday if you’re in a relationship with someone you care for (and who cares for you). But whether you’re in such a partnership or not, there is one person you should love above all others: yourself. “What??” you might ask. “What...

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Many of us with breast cancer become close friends with others that we meet in support groups, online forums, and through friends. Sadly, some of them pass away, leaving us with grief and, sometimes, survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt is real and we all experience it...

Living Without Regrets

Living Without Regrets

“I wish I’d lived a life true to myself rather than the one others expected of me.” That was the number-one regret expressed by dying people cared for by Australian palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, who worked with hospice patients for almost ten years and who wrote...

Dealing With Breast Cancer-related Weight Gain

Dealing With Breast Cancer-related Weight Gain

As if having breast cancer isn’t bad enough, many women find that they put on unwanted pounds due to the specific treatment they’re on and/or feeling too tired to exercise the way they used to. I am not a metabolism expert but did some research and found that the...

A SIMPLE Framework for Life

A SIMPLE Framework for Life

It’s completely normal to feel disoriented and detached from our old lives and original selves after anything as life-altering as a breast cancer diagnosis. It’s like we’ve been picked up in a personal tidal wave, tossed and tumbled, and washed up on a new shore,...

Get through this with self-love, a clear focus on what matters most to you, and help from someone who's been there.

Explore what kind, compassionate support can feel like with a no-obligation conversation with me by phone or by Zoom.