A Mother and her Two Daughters

26 May 2010

The Reality of Fear

I can remember the two years when I worked to pass The Breast Cancer Act.  One of the many things shared with me by the client was the fact that many women are so fearful of being diagnosed with breast cancer that they avoid going to the doctor, or are unwilling to have a mammogram.  At the time, I couldn’t understand why anyone would let fear keep them from making good choices when it comes to your personal healthcare. 

Since February 17th, following my own diagnosis, I have yet to feel overcome by a sense of fear.  I’ve encountered many emotions and have certainly been on a voracious search for facts.  However, with my magical medical team, and with such incredible support from my community of family and friends, why in the world would I be burdened with fear?  It has simply not been an emotion on my agenda – until last night. 

The reason for the fear is not important.  But Monday night at 1:15 am, I sent an email to a friend and admitted my fear.  Here was her reply:

The fact that you haven't been scared, or showed that side to anybody, has amazed many of us.  Other feelings you are more than entitled to right now are anger, bitterness, depression, and resentment toward anybody who complains about their hair, or the entire beauty industry for what they try to confirm as the eye of the beholder. 

She went on to tell me about her own perception of my particular fear – a much different outlook than my own.  A few minutes later she sent to me a follow-up message: 

And I forgot to add: you kick ass too.  

Well, maybe I’ve been kicking ass so hard for the past three and one-half months that I forgot to be human and grapple with the reality that this beast called Cancer not only attacks the body, but it has all the potential to attack the mind and the spirit too.  I’ve been so preoccupied with healing my body from cancer that I’ve forgotten to pay attention to the healing of my center – my soul. 

The facts about cancer are humbling - approximately 1 in 3 people will develop cancer in their lifetime.  And while you can go online or to any cancer resource center and find a multitude of information about each specific cancer and the many possible treatments, I have run across very little about what to do when you encounter plain old-fashioned fear.  But maybe I haven’t been looking for it. 

While fears are normal, they are uncomfortable to live with, especially if you have survived other crushing blows in life, survived them, and created this persona of yourself as one tough cookie.  Right now I’m not feeling so tough. 

So, I’m moving in a new direction, one that will help me figure out how to manage fear so that I can get back to focusing on beating cancer and living a happy and healthy life. 

Tonight I read some of Lance Armstrong’s book, LIVESTRONG.  In his introduction, Armstrong talks about his own battle over cancer to later be challenged by the fear of recurrence.  To read about his own fears made me realize that this is a true challenge to the experience of cancer.  It will be good for me to find ways to confront this fear and learn how to manage it before it takes over my mind and possibly destroys my game plan for success.

Battling cancer is more than just fighting the disease.  It’s a plethora of battles, both physical and emotional.  I’m not sure that there can ever be certainty or freedom from fear.  But I will search for it. 

In the meantime, I am afraid.  


  1. Fear is as insidious as the cancer. Fear is an incubus that comes in the dark of night and saps you of your will. Is it normal/natural to experience fear? Well, hell yes! But, you must not succumb to it. Fear is in league with that other devil ... cancer.

  2. You are one of many, and we are with you...

  3. Well, I would think that anybody w/a grain of sense would be afraid. I would think that it would be normal. In fact, when folks that have done brave things, such as a policeman or a rescuer, are asked if they were afraid during their acts of bravery they typically respond "Hell yes I was afraid!"

    Bravery consists of doing what you need to do in spite of being afraid. And so you are very brave in my book. Which I will let you read sometime.


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