Avoid Extremes, Hot and Cold, With Lymphedema
January 10, 2018 – Felicia Mitchell
Embracing Cancer and Finding the Joy
January 09, 2018 – Tamera Anderson-Hanna
The After Effects of Breast Cancer
January 09, 2018 – Bonnie Annis
Cancer Care Is a Matter of Opinions
January 09, 2018 – Gregory Caroll
Chemicals: Fair Or Foul?
January 09, 2018 – Barbara Tako
Coincidences and Cancer: Do You Believe?
January 08, 2018 – Jane Biehl, Ph.D.
Fear of Recurrence
January 08, 2018 – Martha Carlson
With Cancer, Timing Is Everything
January 07, 2018 – Khevin Barnes
Choosing to Be Proactive, Not Reactive, After Cancer Wears You Down
January 06, 2018 – Barbara Tako
I Really Should Lose Weight
January 05, 2018 – Bonnie Annis

Wishing Cancer Survivors a New Year With Fewer Fears

Some cancer survivors are good at getting on with life. Some of us remain timid about the prospect of life, even when a prognosis is good. A new year is a good time to try harder to seize the day, whatever the future is likely to bring.
PUBLISHED January 02, 2018
Felicia Mitchell is a poet and writer who makes her home in southwestern Virginia, where she teaches at Emory & Henry College. She was diagnosed with Stage 2b HER2-positive breast cancer in 2010. Website: www.feliciamitchell.net
Some cancer survivors seize the day with gusto. Others tread lightly. I call the latter the “Deer Effect.” Think of a deer caught in the headlights of a car, frozen and confused about which way to turn.

Where I live, there are many deer. I know which curves invite us to slow down, especially at certain times of the day. I drive with deer whistles on the grill of my car. I trust that they work. As likely, they are a symbol of how cautious I am.

Just as I have dealt with cancer, many of my friends have dealt with scary deer incidents, but they keep driving, without fear. Many of my friends surviving cancer forge ahead as well. If only I could seize the day, without fear. Stress is not healthy.

At least I keep on trying, even if it takes effort to get me out the door. I talk myself out the door. I go to work. I visit friends. I hike and shop for groceries. I marvel at herds of deer in a field at dusk. As I try push myself to expand my horizons, sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. I hope in 2018 to try harder to be less afraid. I want to meander a bit farther afield, literally and figuratively, without worrying about cars and their bright lights startling me.

I also need to paint the ceiling to my kitchen. Not painting it is symptomatic, too. How long can it go until it has gone too long? The ceiling and I are in a standoff at the Not-OK Corral. Will I die before it gets too bad? Or should I fix it, no matter what comes? I should do something.

While I am likely to live a long time, I am just as likely to live a shorter life than I would like. Life with cancer in remission is a crapshoot. Even with the positive role models of friends and family members surviving cancer – from metastatic disease to the terminal illness – I find myself with my pretty positive prognosis at a loss sometimes. I am a deer, frightened by the light.

A psychologist might call this light "life." After several years, and continuing good reports, I still find myself startled by life. A reclusive person by nature, I have let this Deer Effect (cancer) give me an excuse to be more reclusive. After all, safe in my house, even with a ceiling that needs painting, I am comforted by the corners. I seek sanctuary in birds that come to feeders and the sunlight that falls through windows on orchids and violets.

I have learned to trust flowers. If only I had as much faith in myself as I do in my violets, I would get in my car and ride far outside my comfort zone. I would take a cousin up on her ongoing offer to meet in Vermont when summer is at its finest. I would stop making excuses about visiting an old friend who has moved three hours away. I would find a way to see Sandhill Cranes as they migrate through Tennessee not so far from where I live.

Perhaps, with the resolutions that come with a new year, I will find a way to look forward to more, to stop living so completely in the zen moment that I get stuck, doe-eyed, between the fight and flight. Cancer survivors can make resolutions! We can have goals.

I am not a deer caught in headlights. I am a human who benefits from medical advancements and human compassion. I am a human who could be a little less afraid of life, I will remind myself until I believe my own advice. Meanwhile, the first step past fear is make plans to walk out my door and drive to Tennessee to see some Sandhill Cranes this January. I will do it.
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