I’d like to dedicate this entry to my needle fearing friends. You know who you are. The gal that hears the word “needle” one moment and finds herself hanging upside down from the ceiling fan the next. The thought of having blood taken is a minor inconvenience for some, but, for you, it’s a nightmare equal to that of having a spider crawl in your ear and hang a finely crocheted web on your cochlea. The smell of rubbing alcohol at a doctor’s office triggers a sort of Pavlov’s Dog response to pull down your shirt sleeves and put your veins on lock down. I know who you are because, a few months ago, I was you.
I’ll be honest, when I decided to donate I was so excited about the idea of helping someone have a child that I had sort of “overlooked” the logistics of injections and having weekly blood draws. This honeymoon phase vanished the moment I received my box of medication, which included about 30 needles. I quickly ran over to my roommate and showed her in horror. She shrugged and said, “They’re tiny”. Yeah, okay, tough guy, they’re tiny. But, let us not forget, they’re still NEEDLES. A tiny cockroach is still a cockroach. Besides, it’s all relative. Your tiny is my huge. Your “it’s just a needle” is my nightmare on ice with a sprig of nausea.
Fast forward to my first injection. The staff at my doctor’s office thoroughly explained the process of how to do a self-administered injection, so I did feel a little more at ease — empowered with knowledge as they say. **Side note: the staff at the office I went through were simply amazing. Take the opportunity to get to know the staff at whatever office you go through. They are an invaluable asset to the entire process, like your medically trained cheerleaders. Back to my first date with the needle: I got home and paced around like an anxious cat who kept hearing its name being called. I looked at the clock, it was ten minutes until I was scheduled to do my injection. I laid out my supplies — the alcohol pad, the needle, the vile of Lupron and (what I will reveal to you as the holy grain of injections, ladies) my slightly frozen can of diet coke. Who would have thought a diet coke could contain such power that, if wielded correctly, could erase a lifetime of fear. I suppose it did skyrocket Cindy Crawford’s career and make us all go cut our jeans into shorts. So here’s the deal: throw a can of soda in the freezer for a bit and let it get nice and cold. Five minutes before your scheduled injection, numb the area. My nurse suggested numbing it for a minute, but for this first go-around I decided to put every sensation in my skin to sleep… five minutes for me, thanks. I numbed the area, went over it with an alcohol pad, let it dry, and drew up my dose in a syringe. In that moment, I had an epiphany — if Katherine Heigl’s character on Grey’s Anatomy can do it, I can do it. I pinched the skin on my tummy, lined up the needle, took a breath, looked away and put it in (at a 90 degree angle). When I looked back down, the needle was in but I was completely shocked, I couldn’t feel anything. Nothing. Zip. I want to be clear here and say, I am a wus about this stuff and I honestly couldn’t even feel it. I released the tummy pinch, pushed the dose in, removed the needle (pull straight out), wiped over the area with alcohol and did a victory lap, calling about ten of my closest friends to tell them that I was a fearless Goddess Warrior who may have missed her calling as a professional shot giver. As strange as it sounds, I was actually looking forward to my next injection.
I think that my greatest piece of advice in regards to how to cope with injection anxiety would be to remember that we’re often our own worst enemies — psyching ourselves out, telling ourselves “I can’t do this”. I’m here to tell you that if I can, you most certainly can. Think of some of the stuff you’ve overcome in your life. In comparison, I’m sure that needle truly is tiny.
- Evan Ashley, BHED staff member and former donor