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Breaking Up With Fear: Life After a Cancer Diagnosis

I have filed for divorce from my relationship with fear. Cancer fears have been a part of my life for over five years and I think the relationship has simply run its course.
PUBLISHED January 23, 2016
Dana Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 32. She is the co-founder of a cancer survivorship organization called The Dragonfly Angel Society. She volunteers as an advocate and mentor, focusing on young adults surviving cancer. She enjoys writing about life as a cancer survivor, as well as connecting survivors to the resources, inspirations and stories that have helped her continue to live her best life, available at
My relationship with fear began five and half years ago with my breast cancer diagnosis. It has been a rocky relationship from the start. I never really wanted to have the relationship to begin with, but fear just kind of forced its way into my life. It’s funny, because it never asked if I was single and if I was interested in a relationship. Fear simply just bullied its way in and latched on to my life.

I let it happen. I let fear tag along every day at work, sit on the couch with me on a Saturday and I even found myself buying it a ticket to join me on every vacation over I took the last five years.

The fear I have been married to was all about cancer and if it would recur. This burden I have carried has never done a chore. It has yet to clear my mind. It makes my body sore and painful with all the tension and worry. It usually drags me down in my tasks and often forces me to think about it — instead of whatever I had to do in a given day. Fear has just been a constant added on weight to my daily life.

At the end of 2015, I realized I had to start thinking about changing my life. How was I going to move forward and start fresh in 2016? What did I need to do to cleanse myself of?

The answer came like a rushing wave of clear blue water: Divorce the fear, leave it behind.

And so the letter goes:

Dear Fear,

I am sorry, but after five long years of pain and suffering, I have decided that the time has come for us to part ways. I am sure you are surprised by my sudden announcement. I just can’t handle the relationship anymore. You offer nothing to me. You only succeed in dragging me down.

I don’t apologize for not giving you advanced notice. In fact, the only thing I apologize for is keeping you around too long. For that, I am only sorry to myself.

The good news is that I am leaving you behind and moving forward with my life. I fought way too hard to keep this life and now I plan to enjoy it.

I am learning that life after cancer treatment doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be lived in constant fear of the unknown and what-may-be in the future. It can be as simple as being about today. I look forward to this year without fear and what it may hold. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I just have to think about today, a day without fear.
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