Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taking Risks

As I've been healing, I've thought about cancer treatment as the "risk" I've had to take in order to rid my body of these nefarious cells. Cancer treatments are extraordinarily individualized, even talking to someone about cancer does not necessarily mean learning, perhaps only gathering information. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I innocently (and how could I be other with no family or friend history of cancer), thought I would be puking, having diarrhea, losing my hair, and needing to sleep. That's it! Awww, if I'd only known, but then, knowing is difficult. I mean, where was I even to begin my research? Just Googling "breast cancer" brings up 400,000,000 results! I had to take risks from the very beginning of my diagnosis.

The biggest risk I took was that of Trusting, with a capital T. Trusting my medical team, trusting others. Really, risking wasn't about my doing something, it was about allowing others to do for me. And in my "do it myself" world, this has been truly terrifying.

I think back on my first chemo treatment, I was like that proverbial lamb going to slaughter - innocently walking into the chemo room, dressed as if I was going to go teach a college course (that one I had to drop because of treatments), ready to be the healthy patient. Then - and remember this is post-surgery (and I'd had plenty of surgeries, so not a lot of innocence there), my port was accessed, and fluids began dripping into my body, poison was dripping into my body - the body I had worked so hard to keep away from poison. My risk came in not knowing what was next, how my body would react, and yet trusting my medical team, who would know what was "best" for my cancer. I had some serious side-effects, but yet I returned for more chemo treatments, more hydration, and every time I learned that my risk was a little less risky because my trust in others increased.

Six weeks after my last chemo treatment I began radiation, thirty-five treatments in all, and I had to face another risk, that of learning to trust, again. This time the trust was more easily developed, because I had learned to trust my chemo oncologists. When the burn was beyond toasted, when the pain was once again beyond any pain I had ever felt, I had to trust - there was nowhere else to go. Even when I wanted to quit, I had to risk the continuing.

A few weeks ago Scott and I drove our pickup, with new bikes in the back, to Southern Utah, our place of solace. Here I could let my guard down, being in Zion Canyon is like having a fleece blanket wrapped around me, giving me warmth and comfort - telling me I did not need to risk, and here I could trust myself, something I haven't done much of the past several months - I've been to scared to risk trusting me.

And yet that's where I am now, the biggest risk I've taken, is the one I'm taking - that of trusting myself. Trusting in the journey. Risking myself, giving myself over to a medical team, was easy compared to this leg of my journey. I have to trust in the new me, and I am afraid.

Chemotherapy #2, I'm no longer naive, and yet I am scared to death - 
I am well aware of the risks, yet I am choosing to trust.

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