Thursday, July 3, 2014

Facing Fear

This is me just minutes before I finished  my first marathon in Detroit in October of 2013.

 I was scared that day. Would my training be enough? Would I finish? Would I be hobbling at the end? Would I be disoriented and dehydrated? Would I embarrass myself?

As it turns out, I fell down at mile 12 of that marathon, when a pedestrian crossed in front of me on the course and I sprained my ankle pretty badly. I got up, dusted myself, and ran the next 14.2 miles on that ankle and missing my goal finish time by only 4 minutes.

I let that fall at mile 12 get to me, and I was angry at that pedestrian for a long time, until I realized that he gave me something that I wouldn't have had if I had "just" run a marathon. He let me know what I'm really capable of. I'm capable of getting up, dusting myself off, and finishing what I came to do. I'm trying to channel that experience as I face this surgery, but I'm finding it difficult.  I guess that's because the marathon was a place I wanted to go, and that operating room really isn't.

Today is the July 3rd, my surgery is on July 10th and I can't fear is starting to be a real thing. I'm putting on a brave face for the kids, but hubby definitely knows it's getting to me. I'm afraid of a variety of things, some rational, some irrational. The funny thing is, some of the irrational things I'm afraid of are eating up the most of my brain power! Blech! It seems no matter how many times I tell myself that it's ridiculous to be afraid, my brain just resists. Here's a little list of some things I'm worried about. I'm making this list because I'm hopeful that if any newly diagnosed melanoma friends come by this blog in the future, they might see that they're not alone in their worries or fears. I'm afraid of...

-The radioactive dye procedure. I keep hearing that the injections feel like bad bee stings, and I've never been stung by a bee (knock wood!) and I don't know what that feels like. I'm guessing it's not pleasant.

-General anesthesia. I don't like the idea of being put to sleep. I just don't. I'm afraid of my experience when I wake up. Where will I be? What will I see? Will I be alone? Where will my husband be?

-Nausea. One in three people face nausea and vomiting after general anesthesia. When I had my wisdom teeth out in college, that's what happened to me. Call me crazy, but I'm scared of this.

-Pain. (Enough said, right?)

-Pain medication. Yes, I know it's prescribed for a reason, but I can't help but worry about side effects, addiction, etc.

-Recovery. When will I be able to walk properly? Will I feel ready to go back to school one month after surgery? Willl I be able to run again?

-Scarring. Will it really look like a shark bite? In a good way (haha!) or in a sadly mishapen leg way?

-Results of the node biopsy. That's all I'm going to say about that. Scared!

In some ways, waiting for this surgery has been like training for a marathon. I will have had a full month (Too long! Too long!) to "train" for this procedure. I've been learning about nutrition and ways to avoid the unpleasant intestinal side effects of pain medications. I've reserved a hotel room near the hospital so I can get the best possible night's sleep before the surgery and spend some quality time with my husband. I've seen photos of every single melanoma incision available on the internet. I've learned about the surgery, right down to the very last detail...and I'm still scared. I have decided to accept the fact that fear in the face of this procedure is a normal, human response, and I'm just going to have to welcome it.  I'm hoping that I can stop being angry about this melanoma (like I was at that pedestrian) and let it teach me something about myself. I guess I'll know soon enough what that lesson will be.

Here are a few other pictures of me doing things that scared me at the time. I got through these, and I'll get through this surgery too, no doubt about it!

Me in the big glass box in the Willis Tower in Chicago...hanging out over the void. Good times, good times.

You know what? After this whole surgery and recovery thing are over, I just might have to jump out of another plane...
Snowshoeing in a million inches of snow, when I'm known to trip over my own feet just walking from the living room to the kitchen? We did it!

If you're facing melanoma surgery in the near future, I encourage you to think of the times you've been brave. There are probably more than you think there are, if you think about it. Facing fear is just part of life, I guess, and melanoma is just handing us one more way to do that.

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