Feel the fear and do it anyway. That old chestnut. Recently, it’s been a case of feel the fear and then feel it some more and just when you think you’ve felt as much fear as you possibly can, feel just a little bit more. Oh and the doing it anyway bit? Forget it. Doing the one thing that could potentially take the fear away is the cause of the fear itself.
Forgive me for talking in riddles. My brain has felt more addled than usual lately, so distracted have I been by thoughts of illness, of cancer and all that goes with it. It came out of nowhere this dark phase. I was feeling great, emotionally strong and back to my up and down, a bit all over the place, best. And then I crumbled. I’m not sure what came first. The cold that laid me low. The trauma triggers that came with the two year anniversary of my re-diagnosis or the absolute conviction (based on not very much at all) that I was ill again. I wasn’t. I’m not. Or at least I don’t think I am. I’m doing okay. Physically, I’m doing okay. Mentally? Not so much.
I don’t give myself a hard time for being a bit of a hypochondriac. I understand that excessively worrying about my health is something that comes with the territory. But, recently, I’ve finally realised that the extremes to which I go are really not healthy. And not just for me. I drag those closest to me along for the ride and that has to stop. All of this has to stop.
I fixate and obsess, honing in on one particular thing that I think may not be normal. That patch there, on my left boob. Has it always been a little bit pink? And that’s how it starts. The obsessive, ritualistic checking and examining of one tiny area of skin. Left alone at home I’m free to scurry from mirror to mirror, checking and rechecking. Hours pass. Nothing gets done. I can’t concentrate, think straight, engage or be present. I’m a hollow shell of a mum thinking of only one thing, my imminent death.
And then, I check again, this time in the downstairs loo whilst the kids are eating their tea. Oh, thank God.
It’s fine, it looks fine. Phew. See, there’s nothing there.
And the sun comes out and all is well and it’s cuddles and cakes and good mummy is back.
Until bedtime when a different mirror and a different light tell me otherwise and the walls close in again.
‘Why don’t you just give the hospital a call, pop along and get it checked?’ say loved ones when I finally hint that something might not be right. ‘It’ll only take five minutes and you’ll feel so much better.’
And I nod. Vacantly. Glassy eyed and almost unresponsive. They might as well have suggested I ‘pop’ to the top of the Shard and jump off. I can’t pick up the phone. I simply can’t do it.
And then, finally, after days, sometimes weeks of torment I break. And I cry and I admit that I’m petrified. And I see the fear in my husband’s eyes and I know that I owe it to him to wake up. To just do it. Just do it, Emma. Just make the call, get in the car, walk through the revolving doors and find a quiet corner in that overflowing waiting room. The waiting room that’s full of people like me. All scared. All waiting.
And eventually I do just that. I do it for him. For the ones that love me most.
‘It’s okay. It all seems to be okay. My bloods are fine and the Consultant is happy.’
And the relief is immense and I go home and kiss the kids a thousand times and pour wine for the two of us and light candles and count my blessings and the world is a wonderful place and the…
Until the next time. Until the next week or month when I hone in on something that doesn’t seem quite right and I fixate and obsess and on and on and on it goes.
It’s time to get some help. It’s time to reach inside my frazzled head and do some gentle rewiring. It’s getting in the way, you see. The fear is getting in the way. More than the cancer. And that’s a real shame. A real waste of time. A real waste of life.