Facing up to fears

This is a really tricky thing for me to write about as I feel at risk of upsetting people and I really don’t want to do that, however I thought it was something really important to share with others so they are not alone with these issues.

So I have just come back from a trip to South Africa for one of my best friends wedding – Firstly I want to say this is truly amazing I was able to make it full stop and its all thanks to my second transplant – Which are now available on the NHS!!! Woop!! Secondly I have decided this will be the topic for my letter to my donor – without their help I would have not been able to make it. Thirdly – It was an amazing trip and I feel so lucky to be able to be there for my best friends wedding day!

However, the trip didn’t come without its challenges for me……

Firstly I had never flown long haul – ever! My longest flight before this was 3.5 hours to Greece (this cancer malarkey somewhat puts a downer on my traveling- either doctors won’t let you, you don’t feel up to it, or it feels too damn scary to go that far). I had never even got out of my seat on a plane, let alone gone to use the toilet and I’m not sure this is something that could ever be avoided on a 12 hour flight.

The idea of flying long haul made me really really panicky. I was scared I would have a panic attack on the plane and there would be no way for me to deal with it. A few years ago I used to frequently get panic attacks, mostly on public transport or in stressful situations. My normal coping mechanism was to get out of the situation and walk. Basically go outside and walk. My main fear with the panic attacks stemmed from nausea and I would just want to try and escape from it. However, you can’t just get off a plane when you feel a bit panicky can you?!?!?!?

Secondly, I hadn’t yet been away for more than a few days after this second transplant. Let alone for 8 days half way across the world!! What if I got ill? My sinuses were already playing up, just the air conditioning on the flight could be enough to play havoc with that!

Thirdly – and it turns out the hardest thing to tackle at a wedding – PEOPLE!!

Now I think you will surprised when I tell you I actually suffer with an element of social anxiety. I actually think my over confidence is part of that. This last few years I have struggled with bigger organised events, or even just smaller meet ups. I don’t do anywhere near as much socialising as I used to, and I find I have to push myself to do it. It tends to be worse when its more hyped up events with more pressure to have a good time or get dressed up, i.e. new years eve, birthdays, weddings(!). It feels much easier to spend the evening on the couch, in your pj’s, watching Grey’s Anatomy with the dog.

Most people spend 8 hours a day in an office/school/environment with lots of other people around them. Lots of noise, conversations, etc. I don’t have this. At the moment I spend the majority of the day on my own. My dad/brother might be around, but usually in different rooms. I can choose what I do, when I go out and when I see people.

So I’m going from quiet days to 8 full days with LOTS of people. Its hard to describe quite how draining this is. You really don’t appreciate how draining this is until you’ve experienced it. So this is the point where I would like to apologise for sometimes disappearing to my room by 8/9pm, but by that point my head could no longer cope with keeping up with conversations. I was exhausted. I just want others in similar situations to understand that this is a totally normal thing to experience, and it feels really stupid to say it but spending more than a day with people is tiring!!

I am not ashamed to say that diazepam got me through the majority of my days on this trip! But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Ignoring all the challenges of the trip I had an absolutely fantastic time. Got to spend time with the friends I love. Meet fab new people. Explore an amazing country. And most importantly be part of my best friends wedding. Much love to the happy couple xxx



9 thoughts on “Facing up to fears

  1. Sarah

    Emma, you write so beautifully… thank you for your openness in sharing your feelings – you continue to help others. You absolutely deserved an amazing trip. Love & prayers. Sarah xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for writing so honestly Emma. If you haven’t already found her, Claire Eastham (Fraser) writes a blog about her social anxiety called ‘We’re all Mad Here’. She’s also written a book and has a Facebook page you might find interesting. Your trip sounded amazing. Glad to hear you’re doing so well!


  3. Jo-Ann Campling

    Your writing skills are truly appreciated. The honesty is heartfelt . I understand your fears of social situations , you expressed them so well. It is most wonderful that you have an incredible trip , so deservered. Honored to have met you and grateful to stay in contact. Thanks Emma !



  4. Carmel o'brien

    Hi Emma I had a stem cells transplant January 7th 2016. I have been following you on here. glad you had a great time. can I ask you who you got insurance with I am going to Europe soon but the insurance is more than the holiday. I had MDS to xx


    1. I used the company InsuranceWith (http://www.insurancewith.com/) I phoned them in the end to put through the quote. I was able to get a very cheap quote, I was really surprised. However, I am off all immune suppressants, my blood levels are pretty much normal and I haven’t been admitted to hospital since last summer. So i score low on their questions. Hope they give you a decent quote x


      1. That should only be one element that is effected…… but does make you higher risk to infections. Fingers crossed you will be able to get a better quote from them. Think it cost me £65 from insurance with. Also when I phoned them they took down ALL of my medical history so I was certain there was no way of them getting out of any pay outs if needed! Good luck! x


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