You don’t really notice how central something is in your body until it is in pain, but the pain was there the moment I opened my eyes. The soreness in my throat does not feel like anything I have felt in my life before cancer. It’s not like strep throat or a cold, or allergies even. It’s dry. It feels scabby and tight. When I open my mouth it feels like the scab is cracking. I have to stretch my mouth in the mornings, not to mention that my tongue never regained full sensation of feeling since surgery. The right side of my tongue now feels like the day after you burned it on a delicious piece of pizza, it's on fire. All day. It’s tolerable, but not comfortable and is heavy-because of the nerve damage. It takes a ton more concentration to talk now, and Lord knows I like to talk!
So when I woke on day 10 of radiation and pain had already arrived, my anxiety set in. I’m not ready yet. Not ready for the weeks of pain that they warned me will come. I don’t want to do it, although I am already in it and there’s no stopping this train. I think surgery really did a number on my psyche with major PTSD over here. I have a super high threshold for pain. I would rather have had unmedicated childbirth than the IV and catheter (which is ironic since I now have at minimum 2 IV’s a week!) But when I woke from throat surgery and immediately couldn’t speak or swallow, that loss of physical control was nothing short of terrifying. And then it lasted for TEN days. It felt overwhelming and scary.
Now, I face an unknown pain. I know the accounts of others with this cancer treatment, yet because it’s anecdotal evidence I can’t assume what my experience will be. I don’t know exactly, only what it ‘could be’ and that is daunting.
So, I am really working on my fear through this, fear of the unknown, fear of the potential pain, fear of losing control of my body, emotions, and mindset. I really numbed the week of chemo, which was necessary to withstand the treatment, but I don't want to do that when it's not necessary. I don't want to miss life.
The last 2 days I haven't taken anything for my anxiety and I am working through these feelings, reminding myself that “fear is a construct that we create” (thanks, Chido). And years ago in my Al-Anon days, I gratefully relied on the idea that faith and fear cannot occupy the same space, so I must choose in which I believe. But, that's easy to say, do, and practice when I am feeling physically strong.
Loss of control has been a lifelong struggle. It is how I feel safe. It was how I created safety when I was young and life was unpredictable with an alcoholic parent. So, I know this is one of the lessons that I must learn during this treatment. Trust. Letting go. Relying on others. Requesting and accepting help gracefully. Believing that I am worthy.
I never allow life to happen TO me. Life is happening FOR me. And I am present, learning, growing, and grateful. I refuse to let life experiences pass by without growing from them or falling victim to them. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. A warrior.
For now, I am living in THIS moment and finding joy in my home, with my babies, and treating myself kindly, remembering that all in life is temporary, even life. And in 5 minutes, I may find myself fighting fear again, but this is a process and I am grateful to be alive for it. I am grateful for the chance at living, even when facing pain.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.