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:
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.
Thank You! You have spoken to my 7+ year situation exactly! Constantly looking over my shoulder is getting old. Making decisions about my future based on fear is not working. I am going to write my break up letter to Fear right now. So happy you are taking the bull by the horns ; )
Dana, your article on fear of cancer reoccurrence speaks to the hardest challenge of my cancer diagnosis (a little over 2 years ago). I think fear is harder to handle than chemo, surgery, and radiation because those (extremely unpleasant) treatments end. To end the constant worry and fear about reoccurrence takes a concerted effort to address, or it can dim the enjoyment out of everything. I think you have the right idea in focusing on today and leaving tomorrow in the future. Thank you for your article!
Dear Dana (and others reading this). I agree that fear is the most challenging aspect of having cancer. My cancer is metastatic. As a result of my illness, I have to switch jobs, to something less stressful and intense. There is an entire grieving process that I am only partially dealing with. I have found that yoga is helping my mind and body. Fear and worry are fundamentally believing that I will not be ok. It is taking some difficult shifts in my thinking and spirituality to think that I will be, that I am ok -- and that I can deal with whatever happens next. I think saying good-bye to the fear is also about being adaptable to new circumstances and opportunities. My ego tends to get in my way. A LOT.
Thank you for posting this.
Thank you for taking the time to not only read my thoughts, but write back. I appreciate your words and found comfort in them, myself. Uhh, cancer! It steals so much, doesn't it? Sometimes I run from the word cancer. Sometimes I run from the word "FEAR" itself. I wrote this article because I am trying my hardest to escape it and I have found it is easier said than done. I hope you have found some peace and less stress in your day to day. Sounds like you are moving in the best direction for YOU and guess what? That's all that matters. All the best to you!
MAP, thanks for writing in!! I do think fear is the hardest part of the cancer journey and the part everyone seems to forget to tell you! I think we all just learn as we go. THANK YOU for your thoughts and reading what I had to say!!
Gabbymac, sounds like you are taking that bull by the horns too!! I agree with you about looking over your shoulder. Fear just knows where to find us, but I am pretty sure it can't fight back as long as we are stronger. I think we all are! Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and write yours. Take care!
Dana...What a great message to everybody who is dealing w/cancer. I'm a 19 yr survivor of Esophageal cancer, 6 yr survivor of testicular cancer and have lived out your testament just about word for word. My one problem was not writing a letter like you did.
I have participated in cancer support in many capacity's including being on the BOD of the ECAA [ESOPHAGEAL. CANCER AWARENESS ASSOC.] as well as local support groups. The issue of "FEAR" is loud and clear with just about every cancer patient and caregiver I've ever met. And when I tell a patient.."I know what you're going through"...I really do! Scanxeity [sp?] leads the pack. Whether it's before, during or after a scan...the anxiety and the anticipation of the results adds sooo much stress to everyone involved. Managing that mentally and physically is a challenge no doubt. You bring out a great method of handling and dealing with it.
One thing that I can add is that it does get better with time. The underlying question is do you control fear or does fear control You? The answer can change from one day to the next!