Today I take my husband for his treatment at the Cancer Treatment Center. It is a relatively simple procedure that he has to go through, comparable to donating a pint of blood during a blood drive. He is in and out of the procedure in less than a half hour. I wish I could do it all for him because I have donated blood numerous times and, except for being a little tired for a day, it is really no big deal. For him, however, it is a REAL BIG DEAL! He is needlephobic. He starts to worry about the treatment day a full week before he goes. He gets so stressed that he gets cluster headaches. I have to give him 3.5 mg of xanax and practically carry him into the center. I must load his 6 foot, 200 pound body into the car, transfer him to a wheelchair and get him to the phlebotomist. Once there, they have to draw his blood as soon as they see him. If they stop to chit-chat or dawdle in any way, he goes into shock and all his good veins collapse. Once this happens, they cannot get a line in and the blood can not be gotten. We have to come back another day.
I read a book by Michael Gazzaniga called “Mind Matters” where in he explains a phobia as two separate incidents being stored together in the mind. When the one event is tripped, the feelings associated with a totally separate event are elicited whenever a new event similar enough to the original event that is stored next to the fearful one is anticipated. The is that the person does not know the original event and so the fear that is elicited is uncontrollable and, in most cases, completely irrational. For my husband any event with a needle brings on intense fear, a fear so overwhelming that it completely immobilizes him. He gets all dental work done without lidocaine because, in his mind, the pain of a root canal is much better than having a needle “stuck in his gums.”
So off we go. I’ll let you know how we did later.