Breast Cancer. Facing Fears, Kissing the Wolf 10/23/08

Hello – Yesterday I took the time to answer a reader about being scared.  I woke up this morning and thought about my personal writings here, and as usual I was scared!  Yes, I was scared about what to write next.  It is not always easy coming up with a new topic.  Then I saw an advertisement for the television show 20/20 for this week and it was about a young woman in the wilds with wolves.

That would be very frightening to some people I am sure.  (Can you hear the “but”?)  Here it is, but I have been with wolves and it was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.

I had been watching one of the morning TV shows back in the early fall of 2006 and the reporter had gone to visit a sanctuary for rescued wolves.  I was very intrigued because this sanctuary was in California not too far from Anaheim where we were planning to be right after I walked in the Breast Cancer 3-Day event.

I got on line and found the information, placed a call and made a reservation to visit.  Afterwards I told Larry where we were going.  Larry is not afraid of anything that I know of so he was fine with this adventure.

We started out with our mapquest directions from our hotel in Anaheim, and we drove up to Victorville, Californa stopped to buy some frozen turkey legs to feed the wolves.  We made the right hand turn and headed up into the mountains.  The sanctuary was actually in the foothills and the road to get there was worse than the Panama Highway was when I lived in Costa Rica.  We got there intact and it was very dry, very hot and extremely desolate.

Once we passed inspection by the staff, we entered one of the caged areas where there were about 8 wolves roaming around.  My first thought was how small they really were compared to how big I thought they should be.  We were told that as we entered a wolf would “claim” us as their human and the way they claim humans is they come up behind you and actually kind of bump into you, putting their scent on you.  The bump feels like a shove.

My wolf was a grey wolf named Durango, Larry got a grey wolf named Dakota.  We were both just amazed over their immediate bonding to us (without the turkey legs) and we got to sit and pet them, cuddle them, lie our heads on them, and yes get a kiss.

Right now I know that someone reading this is saying to themselves “I would be scared out of my pants to do that.” 

We all have different things we fear and one thing having had breast cancer has taught me is I am now practically fearless. 

When I made my life list of things I still want to experience I actually wrote down skydiving.  Up until recently skydiving was something I had never wanted to do, but the more people I know who have done it, the more I said to myself what the hell, why not.

There are many things in life I do not want to experience, if you read my posting on how I camped at the 3-Day then you know I do not need to experience tent camping in my life.  I do not need to experience shark diving either.  Could I get in that cage though and do it if I had to, yes I could.  Camping-I could if I had to but again it is not my choice.

The difference here is I chose to face a fear and go in with wild animals.  I had no choice in facing the fear of treating breast cancer, so it really does boil down to choice or having no choice, doesn’t it?  When  you are forced to face a fear I believe it makes you a much braver person.  You look back and you are amazed that you did it.

In the wolf sanctuary when I fed Durango the turkey legs and saw his mouth open and his teeth bared, I realized that this is still a wild animal.  Yet I had no fear, I respected him, but I did not fear him.

Recently through all my networking and writing I met a local woman who invited me to come to a big cat rescue nearby.  I leaped (groan) at the chance and I got to prepare two days of meals for many large cats and get my gloved hands elbow deep in raw beef and chicken parts, a delightful gourmet experience.  Afterwards we got to feed our dinners to the cats.  We actually use long tongs to hold the food and the cats snatch the food off the tongs.

It was another one of my life experiences I could cross off the list because I have always wanted to interact with a Siberian Tiger.  After feeding the tigers, I was actually able to hold my hand up in a fist, put it against the chain link fencing and the tiger licked my hand.  Was I scared?  No, I knew the rescue had all it’s safety rules in place.  The hot breath of that magnificent animal against my hand followed by his “kiss” was incredible.

I also believe that once you have chosen to face your fears that you have taken the largest step and you have started the process of disarming the thing you are most fearful of- surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.

I was terrified of having my second surgery because I am scared of anesthesia.  Who isn’t?  Come on let’s tell it like it is.  With anesthesia comes trust-big time trust that the person who is controlling the drugs, controlling the gases, controlling your vital signs is having a good day.  I did not want to have surgery at noon on a Friday close to Christmas.  I would have preferred a Monday morning at about 9AM, but I had no choice.  Furthermore being an RN and having had OR experience on the other side of the table I was too informed about anesthesia – yes it is necessary obviously, but that did not make me feel any better.

I did come up with a way to put some of my fears aside though.  I talked to my surgeon and I asked him if he had a problem working with a Nurse Anesthetist, and he did not.  I called the anesthesia department myself and asked to have my surgery scheduled with a nurse anesthetist because I knew she and I could talk one on one about my fears.  What am I saying here?  Most male anesthesiologists I have had the pleasure of knowing seem to choose that line of medicine because they don’t like to talk to people.  I needed a nurse.  I faced my fears and by the time she was ready to start working on me I had released my fear, turned control over to her and my wonderful surgeon, Richard and it all turned out just fine.

Durango and Me

Durango and Me

I do realize that many people cannot take too much information and yet getting as much information as you can is a good way to get past your fears.  You have to work through your fears in ways you are most comfortable doing.  You can do it, in fact working through your fears can open you up to many wonderful experiences down the road.

Today my only fear is what am I going to write about tomorrow and the rest of the month.

Till next time-as always think pink and thrive.


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