This was really prompted by a question I was asked when I visited a naturopathic doctor, ”how is your relationship with your emotions?” Honestly, I didn't know how to answer the question at the time. But then I realized I've been longing to understand how I was feeling. Is that what's needed to understand my emotions?
The first one I wanted to recognize is fear. There has been so much fear, in such a short amount of time. From not knowing the diagnosis, to receiving the diagnosis, to researching the condition and not knowing what to look for, to finally finding a peer support person and getting through the surgery, even after recovery and every small step that I've achieved after.
Before I received the diagnosis, I think I didn't know about what to be afraid of just yet, it's really the unknown that was frightening. Visiting different doctor’s offices and labs felt out of the blue, but I'd say that's the least amount of fear that I had.
The day I received the diagnosis, I cried in the doctor’s office immediately. He assured me that the cancer is in its earliest stages and this is the “best” cancer out of all cancers. I was just so afraid of what was about to unfold. I didn't have much time to think about it and spoke to the surgeon the next day. I realized that when you don't know what is about to happen, is probably the biggest fear I had. I'm a planner, I love being organized of my timelines, and this cancer just gave me the biggest curveball by not knowing that's going to happen in the next few months.
The waiting part was probably the hardest. I remember researching at home through different type of Googling. My stomach would always feel tight because of the information I thought I could read to tell me all about this. But after reading pages and pages of different not-for-profit websites and medical journals, I realized what I was looking for didn’t really exist. I felt more helpless and decided to stop reading for a while. It put me in this deep spiral of anxiety and I just really couldn't shake it off.
I remember the Saturday morning following the Tuesday that forever changed my life. I looked at my husband and touched the side of his head with thin cut hair. I like to run my fingers through the edges of his hair but at that moment, all I could think about is I’m so afraid of losing him. We had just been married for less than 3 months and I felt like the diagnosis gave me an ultimatum of only another 25 years. You know, when you get married, you don’t really think about how you can live only to your 50s, I just naively assume that we will both live til we are in our 80s or even 90s. At this moment I just wished I could be the best wife in the next 25 years of our lives so that we can have our best years together. Then the thought crossed into having my parents going through the pain of losing their daughter, then my future children losing their mother, my in-laws having to bid goodbye to their daughter-in-law... the list went on and on and eventually it stopped when I realized my eyes were hurting from all the crying. But this fear was so real, so sad, and so painful.
I was afraid of talking about it too. Inevitably, I had to tell my work place and let's just say whatever happened there would stay there so I rather not talk about it. But the word cancer was probably the last word that I wanted to use in any conversations. I would downplay it by saying I'm having a medical procedure or taking some time off.
Sustaining fear is like feeding a monster. Every little thing becomes the source of growth for this invisible ball that's wrapped deeply in my chest. I began to look for more help so I found a peer support person through the Canadian Cancer Society website. She's similar in age as me and she sounds like she's very helpful. So I had a few phone conversations with her over the course of several weeks. What I remembered most wasn't the fact that how she got through surgery or what she ate the day after the surgery, she said she couldn't go back to the gym until a year after surgery and had to take 3 months off to recover her vocal cords. One year is such a long time! My biggest fear was that I couldn't get my normal life back. She even said something like “I don't know anyone that returned to the gym within the same year.” As much I loved talking to her and I fully appreciate the information she shared, I was just so afraid that I will also have a slow recovery. I was afraid of letting go my normal, my everyday life and my routines. The voice in my head was almost trying to deny me the opportunity to have my normal life back.
Now 8 weeks post surgery, as I think back, I realized I did struggle, but I also had a ton of help and encouragement. I’m truly grateful for the support from my husband, family and friends that shared their life stories with me, reminded me that I’m not in this by myself. Even though I’m the only one that can help me to get better each day, I’m constantly surrounded by love and compassion to help me through this process. For that, I’m eternally grateful. <3