Friday, October 8, 2010

Fear of Falling

Most cancer survivors live with a low-grade fear. It's not something we talk about or dwell on, but it's there. Will I relapse? Will I ever return to the person I was before treatment? Will Meg Whitman become governor?

This broken hip is tapping into a whole new set of fears. The out-of-control feeling of falling is a recurring theme of my nightmares. And now the nightmare has come true.

I fear pain, but I also fear pain meds. Part of that is about fear of losing control (as I did after my one experience with morphine) and part is about fear of addiction. (It didn't help to read Broken Hip Chronicle, which describes the patient's addiction and 3-time withdrawal from pain meds.) I requested meds the first night I was here (emphasizing "the lowest dose possible"), but haven't experienced pain since surgery last evening. But, don't worry. I think my dread of pain will trump my fear of meds.

And now I must admit that I have a fear of wheelchairs. It's not so much a fear of the vehicle as a fear of how others might view me in one. If you've been reading for a while, you may recall the shame I felt at the City of Hope when I had to be pushed around campus. (I even hid my face when I saw my doctor on the grounds.) And you might remember my irrational panic attack when the wheelchair was pushed into the exam room.

My wheelchair-phobia came to light recently when I sat next to a man and his wheelchair-bound wife at a dinner event. When I learned that she was in the wheelchair temporarily as the result of a falling accident, I was surprised and ashamed at my reaction - relief. I'm even more ashamed to admit that a reluctance to talk with her evaporated when I learned that her condition was temporary.

Temporary. Just like my current immobile condition. Just like my hospital stay. And, hopefully, just like my fears.


Petrea Burchard said...

Susan, this is a beautifully-written, beautifully-expressed essay. Who doesn't feel the same way, have the same fear? It's not irrational at all. We know what the wheelchair symbolizes and we don't want to name it or face it.

I know you must be sick of this. I'd love to give you advice, but you're in the hands of people who know so much more than I do.

I'm fighting a cold. I'll see you as soon as it's gone. In the meantime, I hope others surround you, and I hope you accept their support.

Kelli said...

My MIL lived with me for three years while she underwent chemo. During that time, she fell and broke her hip. She was using a walker before she fell and wont let go of it now, even though it's been a year and a half since she fell.
From my little knowledge of all of this, if you want to walk, you will. Plain and simple. My MIL has been content to lay in bed and give up. I've only read for blog for a little bit, but I see none of that in you.
Stay strong. You can do it.

Paula L. Johnson said...

Good grief, Smooky! Well, I hope your fall occurred while you were running to meet the pizza delivery guy. You could use the padding!

Ronni Gordon said...

I agree: Beautifully written and expressed.

I think we all have that fear, which becomes more and more low-grade as time passes but which comes to the surface if touched off. It's totally normal and will likely fade again once you're out of the hospital.

I was on morphine once and it made me really crazy. They changed the pain meds and I was OK. Like you, I never liked taking so much that I felt out of control. But in addition to pain hurting, it's not good for you, so I did the same thing, asking for the smallest amount possible...except for when I was in excruciating pain and had a pain med pump.

When it wasn't too bad, sometimes I got oxycodone with Tylenol to lower the unpleasant "trippy" effects of the oxycodone alone.

Anyway, I bet you'll be out sooner than you know it and all of this will fade into memory and you'll be blogging about all the cool things you're doing (and cooking).

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I think the best thing about fear is what someone said to me once - "It's just a fear, it doesn't make it real."

Get better soon -- Lisa C.

Jean Spitzer said...

I can't believe what a cogent essay you put together while dealing with a broken hip, and in the hospital, no less.

Heal well.

Karen said...

I won't get near you again with a wheelchair, that's for sure! ;-)

I don't suppose you'll need one this time, unless there's a long walk to and from doctor's appointments.

Nancy said...

Susan, just stumbled onto your blog, it's so well written. I just started one, so I'm checking out as many others as I can. Sorry your fear of falling came true, but hopefully you will be up and about sooner than expected. And who isn't afraid of wheelchairs? Good luck on your recovery.

Nelle said...

This is so well written and I know these are all issues that I have had and probably most other cancer patients. When I developed secondary cancers that triggered another fear. Being helpless in any way is a fear I struggle with.