Fear of flying, or crashing?

Man in business suit flying through the air looking terrified

For so many reasons, this is not me.

My cancerversary? Oy vey. Sometimes the anticipation is better than the reality. A potentially lovely walk on a very hot day unsheltered by trees had J. and Jelly panting in no time. And the stop at Annie’s Café was a bust. J. and I agreed that the baked goods didn’t look great, so we passed. Should have gone to Bumpy’s. Live and learn.

Since then, I’ve been furiously trying to finalize plans for a trip to see family. First the bloodwork to determine whether my new chemo had completely depleted my platelets. No, holding steady, so Dr. Blood cleared me for travel. Then the last-minute flight, which wasn’t cheap. Finally a quiet place to crash for the inevitable naps.

J. won’t be joining me because she can’t really bail on the three weddings she’s scheduled. I’ve flown solo many times but I do prefer having my human security blanket along for the ride. Who will open the emergency exits when we need them if not J.?

I don’t have a phobia of flying. I do not stay home or drive long distances to avoid flying. I fearlessly go to the airport, board my plane, and buckle in, but sometimes I get a little shaky after that. I may look like I’m ignoring the safety instructions like all the cool people, but really I’m listening intently.

It’s the take offs and landings, and sometimes the turbulence, that unsettle me. So how do I cope? First of all, I bring a really good novel, several newspapers, and the really hard Saturday Sudoko to distract me. Oh, and if I can watch Food Network, all the better, so long as it’s not Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Ugh, just watching that show makes me retain water.

If distraction fails, I talk myself through the anxiety. I remind myself that I’m in more danger behind the wheel of my car than I am on a plane. (Curiously, I forget this statistic when I am driving.) Then, if I start to worry as we approach our destination, I recall that more planes crash during take off than landing. (How do I manage to avoid thinking of this when I am taking off? Beats me.)

And if I still can’t calm myself, I take an Ativan. No, silly, I’m just joshing. Rather, I think back to the one very scary flight I was on years ago. I was returning from the funeral of someone who had died an untimely death. There was a loud noise–an explosion?–and the plane started losing altitude. We did not know what was happening until we touched down safely at the nearest airport. Turns out one of the plane’s engines had kicked the bucket, necessitating an emergency landing. While this was happening, I convinced myself that only a very sick God would kill me after all the suffering I’d already endured that week. I arrived home on another plane without further incident.

Now when I’m feeling scared on a flight, I remind myself that I’ve survived engine failure, and I’m not speaking of my own. Heck, I’ve got leukemia and three years later I’m still alive. Why would I die from a plane crash if cancer hasn’t killed me? Maybe that’s what I’ll tell myself this time if need be. Oddly, I’m comforted by this reasoning.



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