She Overcame A Major Fear During Her Breast Cancer Journey That Taught Her Never To Doubt Herself

"I was stronger than I ever gave myself credit for."

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of the month, we will be highlighting the stories of those affected, as well as the people who come to their aid and help bring awareness to the issue.

"Let me show you how to do this," said the nurse. I tersely told her, "No, give it to me. If I don't do this on my own right now, I'll never be able to do it myself."

I was in my oncologist's office preparing to give myself a shot and I was crying. You see, I was the person with a life-long fear of needles. I couldn't even look at a needle without feeling faint. I was the child that would cry when my mom pulled up to the doctor's office for a check-up, not knowing if I was going to get a shot or not. And if they had to give me a shot, that required my mom, the doctor and two nurses to hold me down while I screamed. Even being a cancer patient didn't make my fear go away. I still didn't look at the needles when I had to get my blood drawn once a week or when I had to get injections as part of my chemo regimen. I didn't scream and throw a tantrum like I did as a child, but I usually held my breath and closed my eyes until it was over.

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 BRCA -1 breast cancer at the age of 37 and within two weeks of having surgery to put in my port to administer my chemotherapy, I developed blood clots in my neck. The doctors put me on oral blood thinner medicine to keep me from developing any more clots. However, after about six weeks, I ended up developing more clots further down my arm and was in my oncologist's office to talk about this new development.

When my oncologist came into to the exam room to talk to me, he had this look on his face that said, "You're not going to like this news." So I said to him, "Give me the bad news." He said, "We are taking you off the blood thinner pills and you're going to have to go to daily injections for 90 days." I knew there was no way I was going to be able to drive to the doctor's office for 90 straight days, so I realized that I was going to have to give myself the shots. That made me start to bawl.

So when the doctor left and the nurse exited to get the shot ready, I was alone in the room and started to think. I was going to have to overcome this fear to take care of myself. I had no choice. The best analogy I could come up with was a person with an extreme fear of heights having to jump out of a burning building. You realize you have no choice—no choice but to do what you have to do to take care of yourself—and it is terrifying.

When the nurse came back with the shot, she wanted to show me what to do. However, I knew if I left that office without doing it myself, I had no faith I'd be able to do it on my own at home. So I told her I needed to do it all. I opened the package and took out the syringe. Next, I removed the cap, pinched my abdomen, and pointed the needle at the skin. Then I sat there, for the longest time. My brain was telling my hand to stick the needle in my skin, but my hand didn't move and my gaze didn't wander. Thankfully, the nurse was patient and she didn't say a word while I sat there paralyzed with fear.

I don't know how long I sat there before I worked up enough nerve to stick myself. It seemed like forever, but looking back, it was probably a full two minutes. I still do not know where it came from because all of a sudden, I made a quick movement and the needle punctured the skin. Next, I was in a daze as I really can't remember pressing in the plunger to administer the medicine through the needle or removing the needle from the skin. All I do remember is I went from a crying mess to having a grin as wide as I could smile. I had done it! I was so proud of myself for overcoming this fear. And it was a pride I had never felt before.

It was at that point that I realized I could do anything I set my mind to, which made every problem and setback much easier to handle throughout the rest of my cancer journey. I was stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. Any time I doubt myself or my abilities, I look back at that day and realize that anything is possible — if you make up your mind to do it.

Cover image via chainarong06 I Shutterstock

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey: Surviving and Thriving During and After Your Diagnosis and Treatment © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

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