Two weeks ago, I had surgery on my ankle.
I sobbed so hard that evening as I lay in my hospital bed. The pain was unreal. The nurses tried all sorts of different varieties and doses of painkillers, but nothing seemed to help.
I shared a room in the hospital with a 70-year old woman who had had knee surgery 2 weeks before. In her thick, German accent, she told me lots of stories about her life. Her ex-husband had been a very “bad man” to her, and one day, in the middle of the night, she snuck out with her two very small children and left. She never saw him again. She’d never had a relationship since. “Lots of male friends” she said, “but never a relationship.” She used to be a nurse. She held my hand as I cried that night and told me that I wouldn’t be in so much pain the next day. She was right.
I’m home now and doing a lot of sitting around with my foot elevated. I had a check-up with my doctor and he said my ankle is healing well. He also gave me a prescription for more painkillers and thrombosis injections that I must give myself each day.
I have a pretty big fear of needles and injections. I always have, and so the idea of giving myself an injection every day for the next month was terrifying. I bartered and pleaded with the doctor, asking him about statistics of thrombosis and whether it was really going to be likely that it would happen to me. He laughed and shook his head and explained that I had to have the injections. I sat there in his office and sulked like a 3 year old child.
Later that day, I spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos of people explaining and demonstrating how to self-administer injections One woman explained that if you put an icepack on your belly 20 minutes before giving yourself the injection, it can really help with the pain.
So that’s what I decided to do.
I dug an icepack out of the freezer and tucked it into the waistband of my jeans to cool the area I would inject. And then I waited. Nervously. Pacing on my crutches around the kitchen. Clock watching. The very thought of piercing my skin with a needle and causing myself pain was such a fucked-up concept in my head. Despite the cooling effect of the icepack on my body, I started to sweat.
After 5 minutes or so, the freeze of the icepack started to sting my stomach. It was a mild discomfort at first, but very quickly and sharply, it started to become pretty uncomfortable. I kept the icepack there though. I could handle the discomfort and the pain.
20 minutes was up.
I now had to give myself the injection.
“Just whack it in like a dart” was the advice from my partner, Kristin. Horrified, I grabbed my laptop, locked myself in my office, opened up Youtube and followed the gentle how-to-give-yourself-an-injection advice from this wonderful woman. Shaking, I followed her instructions to the letter, took a deep breath and watched, in a wash of total horror and incredulousness, as the needle slowly pierced my skin by my very own hand.
Just as she’d promised. I felt no pain. Nothing. And yet each day since then, in the moments before I give myself the injection, the same fear from the day before and the day before that and the day before that, rises in me and I experience the fear all over again.
I fear the pain of the injection.
And yet interestingly, the actual pain comes from the icepack.
Which I happily tolerate despite the agonising discomfort it brings.
Because it’s just an icepack.
And I’m not scared of the icepack.
I’m scared of the needle.
The needle that doesn’t even hurt.
Over and out.