I always stop to greet this guy on my annual visit to the doctor.
I went for my annual doctor’s appointment with my endocrinologist yesterday. Anyone who has ever had a cancer diagnosis, and maybe even those who haven’t, know the slowly creeping tension that builds before these visits. I’ve been thinking about this lately because of something I have been experiencing but haven’t been able to put into words until just recently.
Every year around my birthday for the past while I have been experiencing a malaise, a fear, that begins slowly but gradually intensifies to the point where I have to stop and take notice. It calls to me to begin reactivating all of my self care practices. My journal pages get filled again, I take longer walks, and book that massage I’ve been meaning to have. I call in my support systems and generally ride it out.
The interesting thing is, I have noticed this pattern and have made some connections, but also usually wonder if there is something else happening as well – some new physical ailment I should be monitoring. I never fully understood it until recently. You see, it was around my birthday seven years ago that I had an operation to remove half of my thyroid gland. We knew my thyroid was displaying unusual activity but couldn’t get a clear diagnosis without removing part of it. It wasn’t good. I had a smallish cancer located inside the tissue they removed which meant two things: a) I now had a cancer diagnosis and b) a second operation had to be scheduled to remove the rest of the gland. It was not good news and rocked the world of this highly sensitive person to the core. I lived in fear through the whole thing – the second operation, the follow up treatment, and finally the recovery.
I was lucky and had good doctors and my prognosis was always very good. But it happened. And it was traumatic. Which brings me to what I learned this year which has changed things for me. My husband recently read an article about a connection between a cancer diagnosis and people experiencing PTSD because of it. Hearing this has changed everything for me. I am so much better when I can name things that I am experiencing. Maybe next year when I feel the fear creeping in again around my birthday, I can be more tender with that vulnerable side of myself that was so frightened for my survival and well being seven years ago.
I am already practicing. When I got off the elevator yesterday at the doctor’s office and felt the floor still rising and my heart beating just a little too fast, I remembered to comfort myself with these three sentences.
I’m feeling vulnerable.
I’m grateful for the wonderful doctors that I found seven years ago.