Feel the fear


“Fear can either paralyze you, or propel you.” — Me

Lately I have been grappling with the difference between fear and negativity. In my mind, it haunts me that they could be the same. While I know that anybody in my shoes would count fear among the many emotions that accompany a cancer diagnosis, I also worry that negativity will affect my overall health and that somehow, if I have a negative (read: fearful) thought, I will be undoing all of the good that I have been putting in place to kick this cancer’s ass. Because I believe so strongly in the mind/body connection, it feels like a lot of pressure to control my thoughts and stay positively in-the-moment.

My hope is that the body thinks about and processes fear differently than negativity. I believe that managing this cancer as a chronic disease is totally within not just the realm of possibility, it is what is going to happen. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments when the worst flashes through my mind, and those are the moments that I worry somehow will travel throughout my body and send the cancer the message that I doubt that I can keep it stable (or self-heal).

When I become afraid, I very often don’t like to let myself stay in that place, though perhaps if I don’t truly let myself feel the fear (or any other feeling that I may experience), it will take up space in my mind that could then perhaps distract me from how I do want to feel. I would like to at least acknowledge the fear (and the doubt, anger, frustration, confusion, you name it), process it, and then be able to move forward. I somehow want the fear to propel me into getting in touch with the raw emotions, enough to be able to create the best and most authentic life possible for myself and SHL. What I don’t want is for the fear to paralyze me, which is perhaps why I’m afraid to let myself feel it. Afraid that somehow, I’ll get stuck there. Kris Carr wisely says, “When fear becomes your lighthouse, it will lead you to darkness.” Amen sister!

When I went in for my second round of scans this past Monday that fear was at the surface; in fact, I remember telling my therapist the week before that I was more fearful for these scans than I was for the first round back in December. And yet, as scared as I felt, I also really thought that what my doctor was going to tell me the next day was that I was stable, or possibly even that the tumors had shrunk a little bit. (Aha! A perfect example of feeling fearful and yet positive at the same time! Isn’t it strange how we can experience both of those things together?). So you can imagine my surprise when that is not what he said. Instead, I was told that 2 of the tumors had actually grown a little bit since my last scans. Thank g-d the growth is very, very small, but my doctor still recommends that I go through another round of treatment. We ended up spending the whole day at Dana Farber. What I thought was going to be a day where I was told that I was stable and would be scanned in another couple of months turned out to be a 12 hour day, including meeting with another doctor to discuss one of the treatment options, and a brain MRI because that morning I had a severe headache and nausea and my doctor wanted to make sure that I didn’t have any melanoma in my brain (thank g-d I don’t). I thankfully have treatment options to choose from, and I’m in the process of gathering information and figuring out what that will look like. The fear that I thought was on the surface is now bubbling over, and feels hard to contain.

Since I got the news that I need more treatment, I notice that I’m having trouble sometimes expressing my thoughts in coherent sentences. I feel like I’m in a haze. It’s hard to concentrate. I feel fuzzy. I can feel my mouth moving as I’m talking to people, but half the time I have no real idea what I’m actually saying, and my brain races at the same time. I’m constantly trying to make sense out of something that has no answer. I feel as though a stronger person wouldn’t say this, but it’s so hard not to look at other people’s lives and quite simply wonder why that can’t be me. (Don’t you hear people say all the time about “strong” people– they never complain, they never ask why me? They never seem to compare themselves to other people. I want to ask: Are they humans, or robots?!). Why can’t I be doing what other people are doing, worrying about what other people are worrying about? Instead I’m trying to figure out how to get these tumors inside of me to stop growing. I wonder about the meditations and positive visualizations that I have been immersing myself in since my diagnosis. SHL makes the good point that perhaps if I hadn’t been doing that, the tumors may have grown more. I think about the treatment that I received in the fall and feel like this does not necessarily mean that it didn’t work per se; perhaps it slowed things down. Still, I think about what the next steps will be in the KACP. I think about how I hate to be alone now while SHL is at work, how life goes on, despite whatever crap we’re dealing with in our own little world. I think about this exact day last year when I was pregnant. I think about kicking the shit out of this cancer and doing all of the things that I have always dreamed about– having children, ziplining (I’m afraid of heights but I’d like to get over that), going to a bookstore and seeing my words published in the hopes of helping others, swimming with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, living a long and beautiful, authentic life with my husband. I let myself feel the fear, kind of, and then try to tame those gremlins inside of me and tap into my inner ally instead. She says that it’s OK to be scared, but that in the end, I will persevere.