Saturday, August 9, 2014

Velociraptor Contingency Plan

I gave birth to my oldest daughter during a season where my husband was traveling a lot. As a result, I spent much of my postpartum alone in our apartment with my baby, worrying. Much of what I worried about were things that all new parents do, I'm sure: What do I do if she gets sick? How will I know that she's breathing while I'm asleep? What do I have to do at this age to prevent her ever becoming a contestant on The Bachelor? However, there was one subject that I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about when I was a new mother that I can almost guarantee no one else does.


I would never forgive this person, ever. 
I was about 13 when Jurassic Park debuted, and like everyone else, I went to movie theater to see it. At the time I remember thinking it was a frightening movie, but I still enjoyed it. I've never been someone keen on horror flicks or gore-porn, but by my adolescence I'd been desensitized to the mild violence and action/suspense that was present in the dino movie, so I survived watching it unscathed. 

Or, so I thought. 

I had no way of knowing at 13 a part of that movie had buried itself deeply into my subconscious and that years later I would be lying awake at night, my baby sleeping in her crib down the hall, mentally devising what I refer to as my Velociraptor Contingency Plan (VCP). 

As a new mother, I had learn to coach myself through the worries that inevitably befall parents by coming up with a "plan" on how to handle just about every situation I could imagine. I was trained in first-aid and CPR for infants/children. We had smoke/carbon monoxide/everything else detectors installed in our apartment. I had specifically chosen a first floor residence so that there was no chance our daughter would accidentally fall down the stairs or out a window. Everything was baby-proofed with cushions and covers and locks long before she was mobile enough to benefit from the precautions. I had taken all the necessary measures to ensure that nothing bad was going to happen to my daughter on my watch. 

But of course, I knew that there were things that were out of the area of my control (as cataloged in the television series Law and Order: SVU) when it came to the safety of my daughter no matter what I did to prevent it. For me however, all the worry of hypothetical situations manifested in likely the most absurd of all the scenarios (and likely the ONE subject not ever handled by Detective Olivia Benson): dinosaurs. 

The scene I attribute as the basis for my need of the VCP
As I would lie awake in my bed, baby monitor static blaring in my ear and my husband six hundred miles away, I would plan what to do in the event of a velociraptor attack.  Thanks to this terrifying scene in Jurassic Park, I knew that these dinosaurs were the breed most likely to break into my house because THEY CAN OPEN DOORS. Of course my doors were kept locked, but I wasn't sure if maybe the more advanced velociraptors were also able to pick locks, so I had to account for that possibility in the VCP. 

I'll spare you the details of the VCP (until the inevitable invasion - then I'll post it online and save the planet), but I'm sure because everyone here is a rational human being (unless you are postpartum) and can logically see that in the grand scheme of parenthood, a velociraptor attack should have been quite literally the least of my worries. With the extinction of the dinosaurs, it had been ruled out as a possibility of something I would have to worry about at all. 

I think it's human nature to try to prepare yourself for the worst-case scenarios in life. I think that this can be helpful (when they are actually plausible and not dinosaur related) to think through the possibilities of things that can go wrong and prepare for them. And it's also important to be grateful when the worst doesn't happen. However, in situation where there is something bad that does happen, being thankful that what's happening isn't something worse can't be the only method for coping with the problem. I agree, it is a healthy perspective to take initially, but it doesn't change the fact that something bad is happening and where ever that particular "something bad" falls on the spectrum of life and death, it still needs to be dealt with. 

In the past few weeks, I have been told "at least you don't have cancer" countless times.  And more than anyone else, I am grateful for this. When my tumor was first discovered back in May, this was my greatest fear, but I met with the oral surgeon immediately after its discovery and was told that while it needed to be removed, it wasn't going to be cancerous (I don't know how he knew, he just did). So, I've been being grateful it's not cancerous for awhile now. Because as child I had watched one of my parents battle colon cancer, perhaps I have an ever greater perspective of being grateful that I don't have cancer than someone with less experience with the terrible disease. 

Cancer is awful. On many levels, it ranks higher on the good and bad scale than do velociraptors. However, I would be doing myself a disservice if I only concentrate on what this tumor isn't instead of dealing with what it is. 

0 - Terminal Cancer 10- Benedict Cumberbatch
No, it's not going to kill me. No, it's not going to make me sick. No, I'm not going to have to go through chemotherapy and radiation. But, it is going to change my life. I have to face that, embrace that, and move forward. 

I know that when people say "at least it's not cancer" they aren't trying to downplay or minimize what I'm going through. I'm grateful for any attempt at encouragement someone would offer me, and I know it really is hard to know what to say to someone in my situation because not only is my diagnosis so rare, but the treatment process seems backwards. The surgery isn't going to make me feel better (I don't feel sick/bad now). It's not going to improve anything noticeable (the tumor was caught before I was physically deformed). The surgery is going to make me feel worse, and I'm going to look terrible for a long time afterward and it will leave a part of my body without sensation forever (a part that feels totally fine right now without the surgery). The whole situation is strange beyond strange that I don't even know half the time what to think or say about it. 

So then, what's the right response? 

I can't speak for everyone else in the world who doesn't have cancer, but for me best encouragement is this: 
If you are a natural hugger, I also welcome hugs.
Just don't make it awkward. 

1.) I'm sorry (if you are)
2.) I love you (if you do/and are also not a creeper)
3.) I will pray for you (if you really will)

So many people have written to me and talked with me this week, expressing these three very things. I'm not kidding when I say that I've read your notes multiple times each and replayed our conversations in my head over and over. I am so fortunate to have such an amazing support system, and I need it. This is the very reason I have made my news so public: I cannot get through this without the prayers and support of the people in my life. I am not meant to. People were made for community (think about the Holy Trinity). We are designed to need one another, and just like I'm grateful that I don't have cancer, I'm also grateful with what I am going through, I have my friends to encourage me. 

There are a lot of things about this whole situation that I have no choice about. I didn't get a choice whether or not to have a tumor or whether or not I wanted to go through these surgeries. The only choice I really have in this is my attitude toward it and how I allow God to use it. And right now, I'm choosing to laugh at the following dinosaur video: 

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