Yesterday I was watching a cop show on TV. The main character had been previously shot by a sniper. In the current case they were working the perpetrator was also a sniper. This of course brought back painful memories for the main character. Co-workers saw this and in an effort to help her “get over it”, they gave her the sniper’s rifle she was shot with. You might be afraid of heights, spiders, snakes or whatever. You go to the top of a tall building, handle a snake… you desensitize, and hopefully get past your fear.
But, what if you can’t do that? What if what you fear isn’t that tangible? Not a thing, not an animal, or guns or heights? What if what you fear is elusive and literally “un-touchable”? Then what? How do you overcome it? How do you face that which you cannot see, nor control so you can beat it?
I belong to a group on Facebook for women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and I see a LOT of posts where these women are literally afraid of dying… like any minute. Afraid of not living long enough to see their child make it to their fifth birthday, or not seeing them graduate high school. How do you “get over” that kind of fear? How do you live your life, enjoy your family, do the things you love, while constantly worrying if today is the day you die? If that ache in your side means the cancer has spread and you’ll be gone in a week? How do you move past that fear?
I was given my diagnosis on a sunny day in June of 2010. I remember sitting in a hospital bed loaded up on every pain killer, muscle relaxer and nerve pain drug available when my doctor came in with the results of my bone biopsy done the day before. Unbeknownst to me there were 11 fractures to my spine. I was in horrible, excruciating pain. He looked at me and my husband and said, “its breast cancer that has spread to her spine, hips, & sternum”. I knew it was stage 4 before my husband asked. I never asked my Dr how much time I had; maybe it was the meds, I don’t know, but what I did know was that whatever he said was going to be crap. That it was at best a guess, and I didn’t want his guesses, I wanted facts.
That was five years ago, and any guesstimate of my longevity he might’ve made then passed years ago. I’m still not afraid of dying. My faith is strong, and so am I. I have my setbacks of course, who doesn’t, cancer or not, but I don’t carry that – “is today the day” fear around with me. What is the point of that? Worrying and fear do nothing for the problem, and just takes away from what you have, what is good, what makes you happy. It quite literally steals your joy. And when you have a diagnosis like this, isn’t joy crazy important?
I’m not trying to tell people how to feel, I’m not even telling you not to be afraid if that is all you can feel. I’m just saying that feeling that fear, every moment of every day, does you no good. Don’t fear the scan results until you have the results, you work yourself up for a week just to have them be ok, or conversely not ok. But there is nothing you can do about it until you have the result so why freak out?
Go out, spend lots of time with those you love, make memories for both them and you. We all have to leave this life at some point, make sure that what you leave behind, as well as take with you, are moments of joy and not of fear.
by Norma Pitzer-Kelly