Written on June 13, 2015
For four, almost five, years, I’ve had everyone fooled.
As a ski mom, you have a choice. You can be the worrier, or you can take a deep breath and cheer your children on. You can warn them off, fret and lecture, or you can simply join in. And that is how I got my name, the “Brave Ski Mom.” I joined in.
And I still stick with that.
I still enjoy, no love, watching my sons push the boundaries of gravity and balance. I’ll happily scout landings for them and I wholeheartedly embrace their desire to push my ability and their enthusiasm when I do something I didn’t think I could do (even though they knew I could). When it comes to their passions – skiing and mountain biking – they’ve become my teachers and coaches and their confidence builds my bravery.
Forget It All
Stripped bare, wrapped in a paper robe (albeit one with a port for a hot air tube so I could control the temperature – the single last thing in my control), there was no pretension of bravery, nor even a hint of bravado.
Sure, I’ll jump off a cornice (provided the landing looks soft) or billy-goat through rocks, or even hike a narrow boot pack (well, that one I might rethink), but that is because I can mostly control the inputs and outcomes when I’m skiing. I know the risks and I accept them.
But being prepped for surgery and wheeled into an operating room for an unwanted, never anticipated surgery, well, I was the furthest thing from brave. I was terrified.
Not that I didn’t try to buck up, to steel myself, to channel some strength. On the morning of my surgery, I awakened, showered, slammed some black coffee (per doctor’s orders), put on a skirt and blew my hair dry. I looked freakin’ awesome. On the way to the hospital, I chatted with the cab driver, and when the automatic doors opened, I walked in with my head high, more proud lady visitor than prisoner to the gallows.
And then I tried to check in, and the tears started.
Four days out from surgery, I’m still trying to process this fear.
I can rerun that morning, and the 3 weeks leading up to it quite sanely, but when I get to that check in desk, I fall apart all over again.
I wipe my tears and remember the pre-op process where my husband was present. I put on a brave face and think about when we had to be separated, about an hour before surgery. Walking with a nurse away from the only person in the hospital who knew me was almost impossible, but I did it, and I did it on foot (no wheel chair for me, thank you ).
Waiting for surgery was simply surreal. I met the anesthesia team and the nurses. I rather embarrassedly had to ask for help putting my hair into a cap. “You see, I recently broke my arm, and I can’t even put my hair in ponytail…can you help me?”
All while crying.
What kind of train wreck was I?
And then it was time. The clock hit 7:44 and we were off. This time, I didn’t get to walk. And now I was truly terrified. With tears streaming down my face, my journey began.
And the last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist running – yes running into the OR – saying “it’s time for happy juice.”
It was time to stop this train wreck.
When it comes to fear, I had one concrete concern, a total phobia.
I was afraid of awakening under anesthesia and being unable to tell anyone I was awake.
This pleasant little phobia stems from an article I read several years ago about consciousness and how little we really understand the thick gray organ in our skulls. Reading the first two paragraphs, I stopped cold with terror and swore to myself that I’d never have surgery.
What Do We Really Control?
Obviously, that didn’t go to plan. Which in the end is the big lesson for me. I am not in control.
And I am not alone.
Each time I met with a doctor, I tearfully owned up to my phobia. And each time, the doctors assured me I was in the best of hands receiving the best of care. And then, they’d own up to their own concerns. “Anesthesia is hard for me too,” said one. “I don’t like things being out of my control.”
“It’s the loss of control,” explained another. “We control freaks don’t like that.”
In the past few days, I’ve had great news and sad news. I had a routine surgery with a good outcome, but I’ve learned that there is something wrong deep in my DNA that puts me at a heightened risk for endometrial cancer (been there, done that) and several other cancers.
I’ve learned that a rare skin cancer I had last summer was actually a signal of this disorder. I’ve learned that being fit, healthy and positive can’t protect me or hide me from risk (although it definitely helps me heal more quickly). I’ve also learned that I can manage my future with vigilance and screenings.
These things I can control. Everything else is beyond me.
The Perfect Turn
Which as always brings me back to skiing. As superficial as it might sound, skiing gives me control, even when I’m on the edge of disaster, blowing through life, a nearly out-of-control control freak, a runaway train wreck.
When I think of control – at its best, it’s most perfect – I channel the feeling of a perfectly carved turn, not on pristine corduroy, but on hard pack. I think of my skis in parallel, tips aligned. My weight is balanced, my edges cutting in tandem, with not a bit of chatter. Just a well carved, perfect turn. One after the other, after the other.
Sitting here I yearn for this feeling, and the joy it brings. I can almost feel it. Almost, but not quite.
Winter cannot come soon enough.
As I mentioned in my first post about cancer, writing helps me process what’s going on in my life. It keeps me sane. But rest assured, my personal life will never dominate this space. I promise, there will always be more skiing than sickness. Thank you for your understanding.
- The Rock in My Way, June 8, 2015.
- Holding You in the Light, July 6, 2015.
- Lessons Learned, August 3, 2015.
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