Sunday, March 20, 2011

Overcoming Fear

When I first came home from the Burn Center after my induced coma, I was scared of everything.  The doctors did not know what caused my TENs reaction, so no matter what I came in contact with, there was an underlying fear.  Although most Stevens Johnson Syndrome reactions are to a medication or a virus, we really had no idea.  I was skeptical of all new products that were in my vicinity: soap, foods, lotion, medications... anything.  I felt that another reaction would happen at any moment.

My fear was so consuming that I joined a group where survivors of all sorts would talk about their difficulty in coping with the stress of their experiences.  Dave would accompany me once a week to this group where we would listen to people share stories of their struggles and small successes.  Cancer survivors would talk about their fear of remission and veterans would discuss the lingering impact of their service in their everyday life.  While seemingly a random group of people, our lives were connected by our inability to move forward from a place a debilitating fear.

In our weekly sessions, they asked us to identify the source of our fear.  What am I really scared of?  After much discussion, I came to the conclusion that I was scared that my body was trying to kill me.  They asked me how I came to that conclusion.  I responded that my skin sloughed off, my hair fell out, and my nails fell off... all evidence of the fact that my body was trying to kill me.  My health was no longer a source of strength, but an overwhelming weakness to which I was powerless to control.

They asked me to dig deeper- was my body really trying to kill me?  My skin healed, my hair and nails grew back, I became stronger every day.  How can this be the same adversarial body that was intent on my end?  They helped me realize that my body was doing the exact opposite of my original fear.  My body was fighting to keep me alive.  Throughout my TENs experience, my body had the strength and resilience to fight for my survival.

This realization/transformation was endlessly empowering.  I was amazed at the ability of my body to fight this beast and recover.  It is true that what I am allergic to is still out there, that some unforeseen mistake may cause TENs to return and I will be fighting for my life in the Burn Center once again.  Yet I am filled with confidence that my body will do everything it can to keep me alive.

The human body is amazing.  My dad just did his first triathlon despite the arthritis in his feet.  My sister deals with the fear and uncertainty of undergoing repeated knee operations, yet keeps a positive outlook and remains optimistic.  My friend Marilyn overcame breast cancer and continues to be her kind, caring self.  We all have our stories of struggle and survival.  Something is out there that could hurt us at anytime, be it an allergic reaction, cancer, or anything else.  But that does not define us.  What defines us is our fighting spirit of survival and our commitment to growth.  It is impossible to stave off death; it's inevitable.  But I refuse to live my life in fear and rather embrace the opportunities for love and adventure every day.

Ask yourself the questions that were asked of me.  Is there something holding you back?  What are you scared of?  Then dig deeper- what is the source of that fear?  We are amazing individuals that can achieve wonderful things by believing in ourselves and letting go of our doubt.

To donate to the Burn Center, go online to  In the Designation field choose "Other" and type "Burn Fund (Team Emilie)".

Mail your check to "UCHF- Burn Fund (Team Emilie)" to UCHF 12401 E 17th Ave. Mail Stop F485 Aurora, CO 80045.

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