Fear – The definition of fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm.
Today I had to face fear. I had to walk into the place where I felt the pain of hearing the words “you have cancer.” I have a hernia that I need repaired and the surgeon I was referred to is working out of the same place where my original breast surgeon worked. What are the odds?
Thirteen years ago, I stood in the front of my surgeon’s rooms and was facing the unknown. Her rooms were inside an old Victorian house which stands opposite the hospital. It has a green iron roof and cream weatherboards and a cute cream picket fence surrounding it. It looked nice and charming, but that place holds some awful memories and some that I did not think I would have to relive until today. The fear leading up to this appointment has been real and something that I have needed to work super hard on keeping it at bay. I had to step inside that front door again and hold my shit together.
How can stepping inside a house instill so much fear into one person you may ask? Trust me when I say, I feel stupid for being afraid of a house. The thought of having to go to the same place where my world was turned upside down, and where my life changed in an instant was churning me up on the inside. However, I knew I needed to face my fear head on, and I needed to do this. Not only to see the surgeon to get my hernia fixed, but because I needed to be brave and put to bed a fear that I don’t need to burden me for the rest of my life.
I haven’t been able to park my car outside of this house, stupid I know, but that is how strong the fear has been of the past. Today, Bob drove, and he parked on the opposite side of the road. My heart was starting to beat faster as I got out of the car, and by the time I had crossed the road and reached the picket fence and started to walk up the front path I was lightheaded. As I reached the front door and checked in via the QR Code, which was hanging on the fly wire, I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I kept saying over and over in my head, “fear will not beat me, I can do this.” I reached for the doorknob, turned it and walked in ahead of Bob. I was taking control and I was not going to let the fear cripple me. As we sat in the waiting room, tears started to spring to my eyes. These same four walls that I had looked at with tears in my eyes 13 years earlier had not changed! The beige wall paint and the same paintings of Lake Wendouree here in Ballarat were still there. It was all too familiar and unnerving, but I sucked back those tears and grabbed Bob’s hand. The fear was not going to beat me. I had a lump in my throat and sweaty palms (sorry Bob), but I was determined to see this through.
What I really wanted to do was run for the front door and not come back, but where was that going to get me? I need this surgery and I want the best person to perform that surgery and that person was in the place that I feared the most. I had no choice, I had to stay, I made the choice to stay! I made the choice to face my fear. I had every memory come flooding back whilst I sat in that waiting room, I was in the same position I was in years earlier, only this time I knew I can be fixed. I wasn’t floundering in the world of the unknown, this time I knew what was coming, I could recognise my fear and knew how to harness it. I wasn’t going to spiral out of control, I knew how to cope.
Like I said earlier, I have avoided this place like the plague. I haven’t been able to park my car outside, but why? Because I fear the place or because I am allowing the traumas of my past control me? I could not control the fact I had cancer, but I can control the way I perceive this house. This house is not going to hurt me, my surgeon is not going to hurt me, I needed to face this fear and look at this house from a different angle. A friend of mine at work said to me this morning “Do I look back now and be grateful?” That comment got me thinking. I am and will be forever grateful to still be here and walking this earth. I will also be eternally grateful that I have walked the cancer road as I now look at life differently and appreciate every minute. However, my friend was right. I was going into this appointment today with the wrong mindset. I was fearing walking in that door. I was allowing fear to control my feelings when I should have been looking at it as a blessing. I was getting a chance to do it over, to face my fears of this house and what happened in there and put to rest those bad feelings.
That place holds some shitty memories, ones that I do not want to relive. But if it weren’t for those memories, I would not be who I am today. If it were not for cancer, I would not be who I am today and if it wasn’t for the fear, I thought I was facing I would not be the strong person I am today. Remember there are always two or more ways to look at something. It took one random comment from my friend today to make me realise that I can face my fears. I allowed that fear to consume me in the lead up to the appointment, but thankfully I realised whilst sitting in that dreadful waiting room that I am grateful to still be here to sit in it again. Yes, I will always have those dark memories of the place that made me sad, distressed and fearful, but I now control that fear.
I am facing my fears, one at a time and I am incredibly grateful that I still can.