So, I’m off to surgery on Thursday! It has all happened so quickly. By the time they are wheeling me into the operating room I will only have known for less than three weeks that I had cancer. I have two very talented surgeons on board, and I trust them completely but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I am scared. Positive and grateful, yes, but also scared sh*tless (can you excuse my profanity on this occasion perhaps). This is a major operation. They are going to cut me from my just under my sternum to past my belly button. Then they will remove half of my liver (maybe less if possible) and part of my small intestine, and a few lymph nodes. I also won’t have a belly button when this is over. I loved you belly button, don’t ever doubt it, and I will miss you dearly. However, I won’t have cancer anymore so….win. I am not trying not to be scared, or rather I am trying to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. This is a strategy that my wonderful therapist and I have been talking about in regards to other, smaller challenges in my life, and this operation is no small challenge. I am trying to be present with the fear, let it wash over me like a wave, and just keep moving forward. Some of my fear is superficial. I will admit to being somewhat vain about my appearance, and this operation is going to alter my body permanently. I know that sounds very shallow. Being worried about the way my stomach will look when I have escaped cancer with only an operation seems silly, but I will admit to my vanity, and when I have to confront the changes I will move through it.
My other fears aren’t so shallow. I’m worried about recovering and regaining my strength. I have always taken for granted that I have a strong, hardy body that gets me through any challenge. I appreciate the way my body moves through this world; the agency, power, and independence it provides me. It’s going to be a long, slow road back to strength and I’m scared of being weak. I’m not very good at resting or going slow. Getting over this fear is going to take trust in my body’s strength to heal itself and faith in the process. Resting during this period will only make me stronger when the time comes to honour my body’s love of movement again.
I’m also afraid that the cancer will come back. Neuroendocrine Tumours are small, slow growing cancers and there is every chance there are other microscopic cells in other parts of my body that just can’t be picked up on scans yet. I am reassured by the fact that I am going to be closely monitored and watched for at least the next ten years. If anything else starts growing we will catch it early. All the reassurances from my family and friends go a long way to soothe my fears, but the only way I’m going to move through this journey is to take fear by the hand and ask it to walk with me on the path and teach me what it knows. Fear doesn’t get to choose how I live my life, it doesn’t get to give directions, but it can teach me how to be wary, how to care for myself, and how to be mindful of the choices I am making for my care. I have to feel the fear, and go through this journey with my eyes open. I want to share this journey with you, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you I was afraid. I hope you can all learn something from the fears in your own life. I hope they come to teach you something, and then leave you stronger in their wake.