What Cancer Has Taught Me About Fear

A cancer survivor describes how she faces her fears throughout health emergencies.

There’s the whir of the air purifiers in the serene, white cardiac catheterization room I’m sitting waiting in, holding my matching white healing stone firmly in my hand. So far, my aunt, my father, my boyfriend and a few close friends have been asked to hold this stone and impart positive energy on it from their own heart. I can now feel the smooth stone in my palm, and the whir of the air purifier seems to meld with the whir of energy coming from this stone and from my own body. I’ve taken on a sense of peace encompassed by this almost tangible healing shield that floats around me.

I’m not the type of person to stay calm. How could I? My past diagnoses have dictated, energized and given birth to this other side of me, the paranoid, fragile, sensitive, thin-skinned mortal who feels like a fragile piece of sculpture in a museum. “DO NOT TOUCH,” is the sign I usually want hanging around my neck when the doctors arrive.

But this morning in the serene cardio cath lab awaiting my procedure I am feeling cuddled by a sense of peace and support. Does it feel otherworldly? Yes. Do I have something to do with it? Yes. I found an image with a profound statement once and hung it on my wall. It read, “FEAR IS AN ILLUSION.” I’ve heard myself repeating those words to my clients but questioning what I’m saying to them. Deepak Chopra has said, “You are not your body or your mind.” In essence we are a product of conditioning from our culture, society and outside forces, but the real power comes from creating your own story without falling into the rabbit hole of worst-case scenarios. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR coined the phrase in 1933 to calm American psyche, and Kennedy revised it in his own inaugural. If only he could psychically see his future, I wonder if Kennedy would have been so bold with his statement. The deeper meaning, I’ve begun to understand, is fear stops you from accomplishing anything positive. It also halts any feeling of happiness.

My Grandpa and I used to talk a lot about life, and I would lament over my health issues. His response was, “What did you think this life was going to be, peaches, cream and honey?” Well, that’s what I wanted! That’s what everyone wants. It’s easier not to have to work at something and I think staying positive is harder work than accepting fear and wallowing in it. But when we accept fear, our immune system takes a kick in the rear end. Stress wreaks havoc on our body. Fear paralyzes us from helping ourselves. With fear you are frozen. So it’s up to us to reprogram our own subconscious. This is no small task, but our survival depends on it.

“BOLZ… JESSICA BOLZ…” That’s me. I’m up to bat. I notice the tiny, young nurse shuffling me into the next room for prep, and as we walk through the double doors, fear is nowhere in my front view. I hold my healing rock, think of the life I have, the future that is yet to be, and I’m calm. I can’t wait for the doctors to check out my heart and find ways to patch it. I’ve still got work to do. And so do they. I repeat the mantra in my head I yell out at the end of each of my classes: “GO GET THIS DAY!”

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