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 www.dragonflyangelsociety.com.
We spend so much time worrying what we can't control. What if we asked ourselves why and changed the thought process to worrying about only what we can control.
I love to brag about stuff I am good at. What I am great at in the cancer world is fearing everything. I would win the gold medal in the worrying-about-cancer-category. I have an ache? First thought is it is cancer. If I get up too fast and get dizzy? I assume it is cancer. I hear a story about someone else's cancer and automatically assume it will happen to me. It's an exhausting way to live, and let's face it, not a healthy way, either. I've already planned out how I will react, what I will say and how I will tell others that I have cancer again. Mind you, I have yet to be diagnosed with cancer round two. But it has been a constant topic I think about and more relevant — everything I fear.
I wish I could say I have an easy fix to cure the cancer-fearing blues, but I don't. I've put a lot of time and effort into learning tools and techniques to help one cope with these fears. I don't think there is a cure, but I think there are skills that can be learned to help suppress the massive fears a cancer diagnosis brings. The tools are endless, and you are bound to find something in that mix that will work for you. There is writing/journaling, breathing techniques, mindfulness practices, and talking to a professional to name a few. I have done all and must say have kept using all the above as my anti-fear tactics. They work! But what else is there? What else can we do?
I lean toward the thought of “why fear what you can't control?” Do I have you thinking a bit? Seriously, take a deep breath and focus for a minute. Ask yourself why? Why fear anything you can't control? How helpful is it for you? I've found that in other aspects of what could be feared, I don't tend to worry, which is interesting if I break it down further. I'll give you some examples. I don't fear driving to and from work each day. I don't worry that someone will not follow street signs or driving rules and then hurt me. I don't worry when I get on an airplane and put my life in other people's hands like the pilots or traffic control. Yes, there are definite arguments for worrying about those moments just as there are arguments to worry about cancer, especially as cancer survivors. I have to say though, before I got cancer I hardly worried about it. I knew the ways that I could control cancer prevention such as not smoking, but otherwise, I didn't fear I would get cancer at all, especially not before I turned 35. So, why can't I take that same approach after cancer?
I love to ask why on everything. Why did I get cancer? How come my diagnosis was ER-positive and not triple negative? Will it come back again and if so when? How long will I live? The list goes on and on. As of yet, no one has been able to answer my questions. I have been asked almost the same question in return: "why are you fearing something you can't control?" Well, good question. I have no answer. I'm scared? That's not a great answer. I fear the unknown? That might be a decent response. It really doesn't seem logical to always live in fear of something you can't really do much about. There are so many other things I can't control that I don't fear on a daily basis so why do I discriminate against cancer fears?
Next time those fears creep in about cancer, ask yourself why you are fearing what you can't control? Then remind yourself of all the things you are doing to control your situation as best as possible. For me, those things would be following my doctors and medical professional's advice. It would also be trying to eat as healthy as I can and exercising during the week. I stay away from activities that I know are harmful to myself. That's what I can do. That's what I have control over. As for my fear of cancer coming back, I know those fears are not going to up and vanish. I know they will stick around. However, I can control my reaction to them. My fighting tool is my thought pattern and how I push out those thoughts by reminding myself I have done the best I can with taking care of myself. With that being said, I just can't worry about what I can't control.