1. PANIC. You know when people say don't panic when you're panicking? Yeah, don't listen to them. Let yourself panic—just don't move, lift the phone, make a decision, or get in a cab. Panic properly. Let every disruptive, disorienting hypothetical thought flow through you. Let it drive your adrenaline all the way up. So far up that you might just lay flat out on the side of the street and let them hit you. But don't. Because you're not allowed to move. Why? There is this natural chemical swoosh of happy feelies and calm reason that swoops in right after you let yourself panic. You need that clarity. Don't move until you have it for at least one minute.
2. ALERT YOUR PANTRY. Oprah told Brene Brown that she has a pantry of people—maybe two to five people—who she trusts to tell her the truth. These are the only people who you need to alert. You aren't going to have time for sympathizers or optimists. You are going to need loving realists who are conservative with their advice and liberal with their affection. They're also going to need a lot of patience so make sure you ask them for exactly what you need, no fluff. And for christ's sake, do not call them when you're panicking.
3. PICTURE YOUR BULLET CENTER. In the middle of uncertainty, IVs, chaos, and coffee, there's going to be a sturdy, grounded stone of strength inside of you. Mine is right below my diaphragm—the part of my body that doesn't move. Its true center. I envision mine to be this weighted stone on a fishing line, shining like black onyx. It doesn't move when they say you'll need one more round of the drug. It doesn't move when someone hangs up on you. It doesn't twist to ring out the pain or bend to soften a blow. This is your bullet center. You need it during long waits, medical bills, and more bad news. As another tumultuous moment comes, before allowing a reaction or an emotional wave, picture it strong in your center. Respond only from that place.
4. RELEASE YOUR DEADLINES. There are going to be to-dos, to-bes, appointments, deadlines, meet hers, pick up thats, and grab a things. Just release them all. Notify everyone that you’re out. Indefinitely. You’re going to need a doctor’s note and tell your kind caregiver to make it as vague as possible. Healing when you’re alone is next-level stressful because everything takes about 20 times as long and is about 20 times as hard.
5. THINK WORST CASE SCENARIO. Your pantry is going to hope for the best. Your doctors are going to lay down the spectrum of good to bad outcomes—the risks, the routines, the reasons. You’ll notice people say “think positive” in these moments. If you listen and think positively, you might not ask for enough time off or book a trip you can’t take. You need to pay acute attention to the worst case scenario and plan for that. This way you’re relaxed and ready if, god forbid, it actually happens.
6. EMBRACE LALA LAND. Sometimes your bullet center vanishes in the deepest darkest moments of fear and uncertainty. I think it’s the point at the height of panic because calm reason doesn’t swoop in. This is when you’ll need your lala land. Your heaven on earth. Your glass of water after a long race—the place that gives you one last bit of relief, even if it’s just for a moment. Mine is at the end of a lakeside dock in the middle of August with my feet dangling in the water. The place I take myself right before the needle goes in or the doctor comes back. It’s a place that could bring you to happy tears if you focus on it long enough. Figure out what that is and visit when necessary.
7. GET SOMEONE TO COME FOR THE HARDEST PART. Ding ding ding—you can’t travel when you have a medical crisis so your people are going to need to come to you. Determine the hardest part of your recovery and schedule someone to come for that week. Pay for their ticket if you need to. It’s physically impossible to do the hardest parts alone. Even if you think you’re super human, I can promise you that you’re not.
8. BUY A PAIR OF GORGEOUS PJS. You might be in them for weeks. They’ll be a physical safe haven to retreat to when the hospital robes come off and Dawson’s Creek comes on. Make sure they’re so cute you’re comfortable walking to the store in them for more supplies. I prefer stretch cotton. But Base Range would do nicely.