Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sitting with my Emotional Salad Bowl

Exactly two hours before my six-month oncology checkup and I find myself in that odd space between emotion and logic. I am ridiculously nervous and yet cognizant of the fact there really isn’t anything to be nervous about.

But my anxiety is real and I’ll own it. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, I have learned that leveraging logic to ward off fear and anxiety takes more far energy that simply leaning in and embracing the emotion. All things flow more smoothly when I sit with my emotions and allow my emotions to sit with me.

While I’m sitting and ‘owning’ my feelings, I’m acutely fascinated with the dichotomy between my “rational brain” and my “less rational, more emotional” side. So I’ll give them both a voice. (Some people prepare for appointments using mindful meditation or distraction techniques. Evidently I just type.)

Logic says: There is no magic test for breast cancer recurrence. Today is a checkup. Nothing will happen. I will meet my oncologist, she will ask how I’m feeling, she will examine my reconstructed chest and check for lumps, bumps, soreness, etc. She will ask how Tamoxifen is going and I will give her all of the gory details. I’ll ask her to refill my prescription and I’ll ask for assistance in finding a new primary care provider since mine has left the practice.

Emotion says: There is no magic test for breast cancer recurrence. Today is supposed to be uneventful. But. Your baseline mammogram was supposed to be uneventful and the @#%! hit the fan in a big way at and after that appointment. The real albeit less-rational side of me is also assessing all of the other ‘health issues’ going on right now and wondering, quite frankly, “Is this cancer?!”

The logical response is, “No, your GI issues probably have nothing to do with cancer” but logic doesn’t always reign supreme in my noggin. The logical response is, “No, your newly wonky menstrual issues probably have nothing to do with cancer” but saying those words aloud don’t really allay my fears. The logical response is, “No, the slightly enlarged lymph nodes in your left armpit probably have nothing to do with cancer.” 

The little-bit-less-rational-and-slightly-alarmist side says,  “But. Just but.”

As this emotional/logical ping pong goes on in my head and the clock moves ever closer to appointment time, I’ve just realized another emotion is peeking out from behind the anxiety: eagerness.

Truthfully, I’m actually a little excited. On the heels of attending January’s Survivorship Symposium and a couple of weeks prior to this appointment, I emailed my oncologist to ask her for a survivorship care plan. She said she’d, “pull a packet” for me and I’m eager to see what makes up my plan. My expectations are low but I’ll consider whatever documentation I am provided a starting place to build something that truly meets my needs. From there I’m excited about helping others access and develop care plans that will meet their needs.

Anxious, afraid, excited, eager. (Sounds like I’m preparing for a skydiving adventure rather than an oncology appointment.) Looks like I’ve got a veritable emotional salad bowl.

I’m not entirely sure how these feelings will play out, amp up and/or dissipate over the next 90 minutes but I do know that my appointment will likely end the way it always ends, with a hug and overwhelmed with gratitude for another six months of no cancer and an incredible circle of support.