Today is my anniversary.
It was precisely one year ago today that an IV drip began to dose me with the anesthesia that would propel me into a seven-hour surgery. A team composed of two oncology surgeons, an anesthesiologist, and ER nurses worked together to eradicate my breast cancer and put me back together again.
I used to be deathly afraid of anesthesia. It was because of a bad reaction to sodium pentathol decades ago. I was having a couple of teeth removed prior to orthodontic braces. As soon as the anesthesia was administered, I spiraled into a seemingly never-ending nightmare and awakened crying and screaming.
Thirty years passed before my second surgery—for a minor procedure about ten years ago—but that first event at the orthodontist’s office was in the back of my mind.
On the gurney, ready to roll to the ER, my fears were intensifying. Tears began sliding uncontrollably down my cheeks as the nurse pushed the gurney through the corridor.
She brought the gurney to a stop.
“Why are you crying?” said the nurse. “Are you in pain?”
I shook my head “no”.
“Are you afraid?”
I nodded “yes”.
“Oh, honey, you’re going to be just fine,” she said. “Listen, this is what you’re going to do. When the IV drip begins, I want you to think of your happy place, the place that makes you feel the most happy and secure.”
Her instructions were like a much-needed hug. At the appointed time, I went to that happy place, glanced up at the IV, saw the fluid moving and the next thing I knew, I was in a recovery room with no ill effects.
Last January—the surgery for the big one—there were extensive discussions with my surgeons and anesthesiologist 24 hours before the big day. They explained everything I would experience, step-by-step, and answered all my questions. Then the surgeons drew circles, arrows, and dotted lines on my torso with a black Sharpie, along with cryptic notes-to-self. I still regret that I didn’t take a selfie!
This time I was totally prepared and relaxed.
I woke up fresh as a daisy.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that preparation can make even the biggest challenges easier. Recovery wasn’t a walk in the park, but one deals with it.
As a child, I had no support system. I navigated too many terrifying situations alone, and yet, those lonely times created a resilience that continues to serve me today. I can’t think of anything that I’m afraid of.
To be clear, I understand the difference between Fear and Danger. Fear is imaginary—the monster under the bed. Danger is real—walking alone in the bad part of a city at 1 AM.
I know what constitutes Danger and do my best to avoid it. Fear is something I can control.
Today I’m all healed.
I’m Linda 2.0, the new, improved version of myself—back on the trail, back in the saddle.
I’m in my happy place.