How I Faced My Fears About Surgery, Isolation and Falling Behind in Life

  • This blog post was originally titled "Fears" and was published on September 21, 2014 on nadhahassen.com

"I have a question and this is in no way is a judgement on your medical abilities, but I need you to tell me that this is absolutely not going to happen."

*Blank, non-committal stare from the anesthesiologist*

I continue rambling,"There is no way that I'm going to come out of the general anesthesia during surgery, but be paralyzed, so that I can feel everything that's going on but nobody in the operating room actually knows that I'm awake. Right? "

There is a special place in my heart for people who do not belittle the irrational fears of people who are about to be operated on. The doctor calmly explained to me the history of anesthesia and that, a long while ago, they just used gas (nitrous oxide and oxygen and the like), along with narcotics when conducting operations. Of course, there was no way of monitoring whether the patient was under etc. etc. Bottom line, the equipment is much fancier today and we aren't just using narcotics to put people to sleep. He even went on to explain that he would only use a muscle relaxant initially when I needed to be intubated. So even if I did wake up during surgery (although highly unlikely), I wouldn't be paralyzed and I would essentially be able to wave my arms and get the surgeon's attention.

*Pokes surgeon* I am awake and I can feel you messing about in my neck with sharp objects so if you don't mind, I'd like more sleepy drugs now, thank you.

Thank goodness this man gets it.

Fear is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of progressI am afraid. So naturally, I'm thinking a lot about fear these days. Fear is not a pleasant emotion but it does force us to confront our true selves. I'm afraid that something might go wrong during surgery. I'm afraid the surgeon will discover that cancer has spread to the exterior tissue or my lymph nodes. I'm afraid that the medication won't work correctly for me and that I'm going to have trouble finding the right thyroid hormone replacement medication. I'm scared I'll have to get radiation treatment. I'm terrified that this will take a toll on my family. I'm frightened that I'll have mood swings and that I'll take it out on those closest to me.

I'm not angry with you. I'm just angry and you happen to be around me.

Others around me are starting new school semesters and getting new jobs, continuing their lives if you will. Sometimes, I feel like I've been cheated out of what I want to do with my life ... This was not a part of the plan. I was supposed to have graduated by now. I was supposed to be working. Sometimes, I stop and think about what defines a life and wonder whether maybe my definition of what comprises a successful life has been a little too narrow. Maybe I got sucked into the rat race, the race to the end, the competition and the cycle of never-ending deadlines and busyness and stress. Too often we define someone's worth or contribution to society by the letters behind their name, by their income, their job title. Everything is in pursuit of those credentials and salary figures, grants and recognition.

People ask, "What are you doing now, Nadha?" I know they are asking about work and school, something worthy of pursuit.

I'm trying to get healthy.

I was forced out of the rat race by this cancer. Now, I feel like I'm looking at everyone else from the outside. I fear that I won't be able to jump back in and that I won't be able to keep the pace that I used to. In this cut-throat world, I won't be competitive anymore. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to keep that pace. Maybe, that pace can't be sustained. I suppose that I'm feeling conflicted. People talk about work-life balance. Can such a thing be achieved? One of my biggest fears is that I don't feel like me, and maybe I won't be able to find myself again. I was speaking to a woman who was living with cancer. She told me that the process of fighting cancer changed her and that she isn't the same person she used to be.

You didn't have to deal with all this before. How can you be the same person?

Fear and Isolation and LonelinessHer friends didn't understand what she went through and she doesn't feel like she connects with them anymore. Whenever she meets them, she feels frustrated and sad and misunderstood. She told me that the isolation is the worst part, not during her surgery and chemotherapy, but now, a year after it all ended. I can relate to this only a little bit so far. I suppose this is part of the reason I thought about sharing my experiences. The diagnosis has already changed the way I'm thinking and the way I'm feeling. So I suppose I'm trying to bring the people I care about with me on this journey. I don't want them to be left wondering what happened to the person they knew.

 

 

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Nadha Hassen

Founder at Thyroid Transitions
Nadha is a health researcher and chronic illness advocate based in Toronto. A "thyroidless thriver", she strives to support people at all stages of their thyroid process. She is currently a PhD student and received her Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Toronto, specializing in Health Promotion.
Posted in Life Transitions, Personal Entries, Thyroid Cancer.

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  1. Pingback: How I went from ignoring my cancer diagnosis to creating a community for survivors – Thyroid Transitions

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