A few months ago, I joined an online writing group for cancer patients. Each week, the members of the group receive both a short and a long prompt to inspire that week’s writing. This week, the topic was fear and I thought I’d share some of what I wrote here. Specifically, we were asked to describe our fears early in the week and later in the week, were asked to write about possible antidotes to those fears. Here goes:
My fears are many:
- Recurrence. I fear recurrence of my breast cancer, but more and more I fear metastatic cancer since those risks are higher; when I developed colitis during my most recent hospitalization, I feared that I had developed colon cancer. Doesn’t look like it, but more tests will tell. Will I have the strength to fight another battle? I’m not sure. As for the antidote to this fear, the best thing I can do is to keep myself healthy — eat well, exercise, lose weight. They tell me that extra weight can be a negative for those with breast cancer in terms of recurrence, so it’s time to get back to healthy eating and exercise, now that I’m mostly over my latest bout of illness. I also need to take my meds and deal as best I can with the side effects, as these meds are my best shot at preventing a recurrence of breast cancer.
- A limited life. My health and energy have been so compromised in the last year that I fear that my life going forward will be very limited, that I won’t get to do the things I hoped to do, and that no one will want to join me in that limited way of life. I think about what I was able to do a year ago, before all this started, and I am shocked by how much energy I had then. I think the only antidote for this fear is to simply live my life, and do what my body is capable of on any given day. Some days, that may be no more than reading and sleeping, but hopefully I’ll start to have more days of increased energy where I can be in the world and see friends and family and enjoy life. I also need to remember that I can’t overdo it either (my natural tendency) and that some of my plans for post-treatment may need to wait a bit.
- Constant illness. The latest bout of illness, which has lasted almost a month has shown me that I’m not well yet, and that I will have setbacks. These are frustrating and depressing. As with cancer recurrence, the best remedy is to keep myself as healthy as possible. Yes, my resistance isn’t great, and I may get sick again, but if I eat well and exercise, I might have a shot at improving the odds of catching the next flu or cold or bug that’s going around. I could probably be a bit more vigilant (as I was during chemo) of keeping myself out of situations where I’m exposed to illness.
- Death. I am not really afraid of death. It will come, and in my case, maybe sooner than I once thought. Everyone dies at some point of something.
Bottom line: Take care of myself and live my life. Seems simple enough.