Cancer Survivors Are Tired of Being Afraid

A cancer survivor describes how survivors can help face their fears by connecting with each other.

We are now into our second year of the pandemic. Little did we realize during the chaotic year of 2020 that we would still be fighting this terrible pandemic in the middle of 2021? This monster virus is still causing overcrowded hospitals, weary frontline workers risking their lives, schools fighting to stay open and nasty political battles over vaccinations and masks. We never dreamed (at least I didn’t) that a variant named Delta would attack not only the elderly, but another vulnerable population of young people and children.

Frankly, I am tired of it all. I wish I could wake up and teleport back to 2019 with a semblance of normalcy. I was reading Louise Penny’s latest book, "The Madness of Crowds." Two paragraphs describing the emotions of Canadian citizens after the pandemic and the shutdown caught my eye.

“They were battered and bruised from losing relatives, losing friends. Losing jobs and favorite haunts. Tired of being isolated and driven near crazy with loneliness and despair.”

“They are tired of being afraid.”

This describes it all in a nutshell. I am tired of being constantly afraid. I am scared every single day to go outside for a simple errand and becoming exposed. Even staying home can be dangerous these days because a friend, neighbor, child or family member could enter our safe sanctuary and unwittingly infect us.

Then, I thought about what an extra burden we cancer survivors carry. We are unsure about this insidious disease named cancer. I think most of us feel that uncertain nagging in our gut that no matter what stage we are in, including No Evidence of Disease (NED), that our cancer can return or get worse. We all have those pesky side effects years later to remind us about being ill. Fear of the pandemic makes getting something from the drugstore or grocery, or going to the doctor’s office a brave risk we are forced to take. Every blood test we endure, every doctor's visit, every test or scan puts us on edge with cancer.

Part of the condition ingrained in every single human is fear and actually can save our lives. We depend on fear to survive. Remember we learned in Psychology 101 that we freeze, flee or fight when facing an enemy? Without these basic reactions, we would not stay alive. However, too much fear causes high blood pressure, heart palpitations, ulcers, shortness of breath and many other unhealthy medical problems.

What can we do? We need more than ever to take one day at a time. The present is all we have. Yesterday is over and tomorrow is not promised. The other way to survive is to be honest, and talk to other people. There is no cowardice in admitting we are afraid, but demonstrates great wisdom. All of us are probably experiencing the emotions of fear whether we admit it or not. We have a human connection. We need to find support groups of other cancer survivors, tell our caring doctors and wonderful oncology nurses what we are going through and talk to our family and friends about our very real fears.

We are all connected by being human. We are not alone with our emotions. Only through honesty and caring for each other as a group can any of us survive.

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