Thursday, July 14, 2011

What are you afraid of?

I have been notably absent from the world of my blog and I wish I could give you some exciting reason like I was on safari or was sunning myself on some tropical beach. However the real reasons are far less interesting. While enjoying some rest and relaxation (and babysitting help) at the cabin, I caught my daughter’s cold and six days later I still have it! Never have I feared a cold more in my life then while going through chemo as it can really wear you down and you don’t exactly have the same strength to fight it as you did before. It is also made me quite angry as this was precisely the time of my cycle where I was actually supposed to feel good and I felt robbed of that by this common cold. It got me thinking about fear though and how that emotion is affecting me and my Big C experience these days.

Most of the time I have my emotions in check however when the lights go off and the quiet of the night takes over, sometimes my brain goes into overdrive. Now fear is nothing new to me. I know I have mentioned in an earlier blog that there is little that scares me now after facing cancer however that might not exactly be the case. There is still plenty to be afraid like losing my daughter in a playground, snakes! criminals looking for trouble, big dogs…I could go on. And this has been the case since I was a little girl. I still remember making my father go outside at 3am on a -30 degree night in January in Montreal to check for an intruder as I claimed I heard someone climbing the TV antennae and could make out footsteps in the snow. I must have made a compelling argument because he did go and reported back that there was in fact no one crazy enough to break into a house in sub zero temps and the footsteps were mine from playing in the snow earlier that day. Yes my fear bordered on the obsessive and sometimes hysterical. I used to chalk it up to the fact I was a writer and had a very active imagination. But then again what normal 10 year old would plan her escape route depending on where danger presented itself while trying to fall asleep! So the fact that I have been relatively calm through this experience is a testament to the fact that I have clearly grown as a person and rational human being.

One thing I have been struggling with though is the fear of the cancer returning. I am sure this is something every Big C survivor encounters and must learn to manage as the years go by. I could see how if not careful, this could begin to take control of your life. Going through a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment is the definition of hell and the thought of having to go through it all over again is almost unfathomable. And of course now that I am in this special club I am privy to stories of people facing this very real fear and it really terrifies me. I sometimes think that I was unlucky enough to get cancer young and for it to be a bad kind so what makes me different from others who deal with a relapse? I know these are unconstructive negative thoughts but in my circumstance I also think they are completely normal. I figure it is a good thing that I want to get this fear under control now so that I won’t be a prisoner to cancer in the coming years. But how does one conquer one’s fear? I can’t really face it head on but I guess I can learn to understand where it comes from, why it is a normal response and also when to check it at the door! I have already given one year of my life to this disease so there is no way it is entitled to any more time. And like my treatment, it is a process, a long one albeit, but a process and I look forward to a time when all of this will be over and a new beginning starts.

So there is nothing wrong with fear – it makes us human just as long as it doesn’t inhibit your progress on taking the next step forward. Because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life afraid of what could be, I want to just live it.

And next Tuesday is my last C-spa round of the nasty stuff! It will be a major milestone and I am so looking forward to bidding adieu to my dear friend FEC. I will begin a new drug in August that is apparently a lot friendlier then this one! The last 12 weeks flew by so I hope the next 12 go at the same pace!

Happy summer!


  1. Well said. Life is fragile, we are fragile and we are finite. Fear is understanding that truth and living fully in spite of it.... not giving in and let it dominate our life. Courage is going on, not giving up hope and at the same time accepting what is and living with love, awareness and gratitude. Life is a gift. Katie Lou, it looks like wisdom is finding you...

  2. My dear Kate, I totally understand your fear and frustration. This roller coaster emotion is very normal and common in cancer patients. Just remember, when treatment brings you down,recall how many days and months you have already survived your surgery and treatment, then take in a deep breath of relief and rejoice.

    It is difficult to convince yourself that you are recovering when you feel absolutely rotten. It is hard to be optimistic when you feel fearful and is struggling with the thought that what happen if one day the cancer is returning. There is no "if" for us, fragile people who are now caught in this Big C world.

    I am a survivor of breast cancer for 3 years now. If you ask me, are you afraid that your cancer will return one day. My immediate answer is "yes". But I have also been training myself to think positively: if that day does come back to haunt me, I am prepared to face it squarely. I have been through moments of death and life before during my cancer days. I am more equipped with cancer knowledge and experience now, I can cope with it more strongly and courageously. So,there is nothing to be afraid of. Possibly, there would be better treatment, more advanced medical technology, and medication to cure it. So why worry? I cannot control the future. But I can live well the present moment and be a better person, I am helping people who are going through the smae tough moments in life. I would have no regret. I better be content that at least I am healthy now.

    Dear Kate, I understand, you are still very young, it is natural that you feel depressed and worn down by cancer treatment at such an early stage in life. Understandable and very normal! But as Captain AC responsed:" Fear is understanding that truth, and living fully in spite of it... not giving in, nor let it dominate our life. Courage is going on, not giving up hope, and at the same time accepting what is and living with love, awareness and gratitude. Life is a gift." So, simply accept your reality and continue to make the courageous effort to live your life now to the full.

    One thing, however, that I really want to remind you is: you have to look after yourself very carefully, and don't let yourself be infected by sickness, germs, not even a simple cold like that of your daughter again. It's no joke when your immune system is at your lowest during chemo treatment. I remembered during my 4 months of chemo treatment, I was practically very protective of myself everyday that I almost lived like a hermit. Perhaps you will say that it's ridiculous for me to be so over-reacted, or to be so scrupulous, or over-cautious over everything, or you may even think that I am much older than you, so there's no need to be so careful. But interestingly, that has helped me to recover fast and well. I was in very good state and my blood counts were excellently maintained, my cycles of chemo went extremely smooth, and my one year of herceptin treatment went thoroughly well.

    Sure,the known is usually easier to cope with than the unknown. Now, you already know the stage of your cancer and also the kind of treatment you have to go through, then try to maintain your peace of mind. Get back to your question:"how does one conquer one’s fear? I can’t really face it head on but I guess I can learn to understand where it comes from, why it is a normal response and also when to check it at the door ?" My feedback is: Reconstruct your thinking. Tell yourself, I am not dead. I still have a chance to live well and healthily. I am not yet defeated by cancer. I can conquer. I must win the battle. Continue to erst well, eat nutritiously, keep your noraml daily schedule. Never mind about the fact that one day brings feelings of confidence, and the next day is despair. Just remember, your husband and your little girl are awaiting you to get well and be fully recovered to enjoy the future days with them. Then you will not give in, but conquer and eventually win the big war.

    Hugs and Prayers!