Wednesday, November 4, 2009
That (Non)Peaceful, (Un)Easy Feeling
Oh anxiety, my old friend. You have returned.
This fall, as most seem to be, has been very busy. There have been several long- anticipated events--two weddings, a visit from a dear friend, a weekend getaway--that had been on the calendar for so long that when they finally arrived, it was somewhat disconcerting; these events that had been so far in the future were suddenly imminent, and then happening, and then history, just like that. There is, of course, an event that's been penciled in for December 18 for months now: my surgery. And though it's still safely six weeks off, it's getting close enough that I'm starting to feel like I want off this crazy treadmill.
The return of my anxiety about my surgery (and my wish that it could remain a speck on the distant horizon as opposed to a fully formed object drawing nearer with every sunrise and sunset) coincides with the lowering of a thick curtain of stress on my non-BRCA life: I'm traveling for work three weekends of four this month (one down, two to go) and, next Tuesday, after months of seemingly fruitless negotiations and waiting, G and I close on our first place. So, somehow, magically, I suppose, I have to pack up our apartment (where we've lived for seven years and have accumulated the corresponding amount of clutter), purchase furniture for our new place (because the thrift store furnishings are not coming with us to our first adult place), and arrange for movers and painters and wallpaperers and deliveries, all while I am not home (and, in the case of my trip this weekend, not even in the country). And it needn't take a degree in psychology to see that my anxiety about moving is directly tied to my anxiety about surgery: I have to have my house (literally) in order because I can't control my body.
And that's where my old friend anxiety really rears its heinous head: I'm getting scared about anesthesia again. I'm not afraid of surgery. I'm not afraid of recovery. I'm not afraid of losing sensation. I'm not afraid of relearning to love my new body. I'm afraid of losing control -- of falling asleep at literally the most pivotal moment of my life. I know everyone has an idiosyncratic fear -- I know a woman whose worst fear about surgery is getting into a car accident on the way home from the hospital and dying (thus prompting people to say, see, surgery wasn't a good idea at all, was it?), a woman who fears having to sue her surgeons for malpractice -- and mine is this: I'm afraid of not waking up from surgery. What if I have some bizarre mechanical glitch in my heart and I go into cardiac arrest? (I have a faster resting heart rate than most...is that going to be a problem?) What if I stop breathing?
Statistics have been a critical part of my decision making process. And it's ironic, because it's exactly the steely rationality that allows me to make such a brave decision to face surgery that has all but abandoned me when I tried to calm my fears about it. A nearly ninety percent chance of getting breast cancer: not good odds. A less than one percent chance of having complications during surgery: also not good odds. Obviously, I should take the latter so I don't have to face the former, and I will. But I'm having a hard go of it lately.
I've never been put under, nor ever had major surgery before. (Wisdom teeth don't count, right?) So I know my fears are a natural part of the process. But I'm kind of bummed I'm no longer Wonder Woman of emotions and certainty. I'm trying to focus on the future: how fabulous it will be, one day very soon, when all of these anxieties -- about cancer, about surgery, about making the right choice -- will be moot. Because I'll be on the other side. I just really hope I get to see it.