Thursday, January 9, 2014

The nightmare before Christmas

Two days before Christmas I got a phone call that has changed my life. I was told that I had advanced Melanoma cancer. I had had a mole removed after months of putting it off due to severe needle phobia and unfortunately it turned out to be cancerous. It is in two of my lymph nodes as well but none of my organs and not in my blood.

At this point I feel like I am quad-polar. I vary between being completely terrified to remaining calm and knowing that I'll be ok to wondering if there hadn't been some sort of mistake with the results to wondering when I will die.

I am going to call myself a cancer survivor because that is my plan; To survive. As I am new to this, I can only offer limited advice to anyone with Melanoma but what I can do is offer a little more advice to those with severe needle phobia.

Some people have needle phobia to the point that they would rather die than face a needle. This is very serious and if you are one of these people, I want you to stop and think for a moment. You won't just die and that's it, you'll be in heaven or whatever your belief. At some point you are bound to get so sick that someone else will be telling the doctors what they can and can't do with you and then you could very possibly be facing a lot worse than a needle. Not only that, if you do die, it probably won't be like BAM! You're dead. You'll probably be in lots of pain and hey, no needles could mean no pain relief and it will possibly be slow and undignified and painful and then you'll be dead. Dead! Gone! Forever! You may or may not believe that your spirit lives on and maybe even in re-incarnation but regardless, this life, here as you know it, will be finished. You know this, right? But you can't help how you feel? You're terrified, sometimes you even pass out? Well, I don't have the full solution for you but I am sure going to find it using myself as a guinea pig!

I've started with something that will help to a large degree. If you can get hold of Topla Skin Anaesthetic, do so. It contains 5 times more anaesthesia than Emla. So you rub a fair amount (not like the whole tube, but a fair bit) onto your arm or wherever an hour and a half before your needle. Wait half an hour and rub some more on. Then put a jersey or a bandage over it and leave it! Then you focus on something else. You TRY! You read, or you talk about your holiday you're planning. About 15 minutes before, feel your arm where you applied the cream and you will feel how numb it is.

O.k, time for your needle. Now this is where I battle a bit. I know I physically won't feel a thing but to convince my body to stop reacting is hard. I've found hugging myself really tightly helps a lot and deep breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth. Think "I no longer have a fear of needles" and repeat it over and over. DO NOT LOOK AT THE NEEDLE AT ALL! Get somebody to ask you questions about what you're interested in and in between answers breathe in through your nose deeply, out through your mouth. You will not feel the needle because of the Topla. Lie down if you faint!

If you can't get hold of Topla, use Emla, just use more and further in advance. Like 2 hours.

The fact of the matter is this, needles save lives and so many of us are paralysed with fear that we let a medical situation get out of hand because of this. I finish my undergrad year of Psychology this year and will continue with Honours next year and between the process of learning how to do proper research and treatment and getting treatment and surgery for my cancer, I am going to find the answers to cure us of this! This nonsense has to end.

If you have found something that helps you, please let me know and I'll give it a try my next time. I've tried applying less and less Topla each time to just feel the needle a little so that I will realise that it is not that bad but anything you think would work, please comment or email me.

And then lastly, for now, needle-phobic or not, if something on your skin starts to change, especially a mole, ask your GP for a referral to a Dermatologist and get it out! Do not ask your GP's opinion, he is not a skin specialist, just get it out!! If it's nothing, yay for you, no harm done.

The next post will be more upbeat :)