I have wrestled with if and when to post this for a long time, not least because hardly anyone knows I have this fear and it is, ultimately, totally illogical. Maybe it is cheating that I choose to name it publicly once the level of fear is much, much less, I don't know, but the time feels right for me.
So - my biggest fear in this whole journey lies not in the cancer but in the thought of aneasthetic, and which at its worst manifests as 'what if I die under anesthetic?' This is illogical at any level I chose to approach it from, but it doesn't make it any less real.
Scientifically it's illogical - I think the rate for anaesthetic deaths is something like 1 in 200,000 and that includes people who are a very poor anaesthetic risk; it is illogical that this concerns me more than 1 in 5 for the cancer itself.
Theologically it's illogical - I can tick the boxes for 'it'll be alright if I die' under any brand of Christian understanding. I also have a theology that says God will be with me throughout the process, so why be quite so afraid?
Practically it's illogical - my affairs are in order, my will is up to date, I have no relationships that need to be repaired.
I have no desire not to be alive, indeed contra St Paul, I am nowhere near desiring departing this life, but the thought of dying does not, in itself, frighten me. Disappoint definitely, but that's not the same thing. So I am forced to accept that the fear is totally illogical.
Over recent weeks I've spent a fair bit of energy thinking and researching this and beginning to test out naming my fear to one or two people, and it has to be said that the act of naming it has helped to reduce its power. It's not that I need someone to tell me that my fears are (almost) unfounded, I know that, I have just needed to work out how to overcome them in a way that moves beyond trite reassurances.
I think the biggest help was talking to the nurse who was doing the pre-operative questionnaire and vocalising just what it from past anaesthetic experiences that causes anxiety (dental anesthetics in the late 1960s and early 70s were pretty grim) and the incredibly matter of fact observation by the specialist nurse that "they always come back."
Now, I can't say the prospect of anaethesia fills me with glee, or even that I now have no residual anxiety, but in naming the fear at the right time in the right places has returned some sense of 'power,' that actually it will be alright.
All of which makes me wonder how many people I know who are terrified of things that they are too embarrassed or ashamed to name, and just how debilitating those fears might be.