This is something I struggle with daily. Before cancer, I never was a very fearful person. I worried about stuff, maybe too much, but I never let those worries overtake me. I was calm, I was levelheaded.
Since cancer, I worry a lot. Some of it is justified... I mean, I had Stage III invasive breast cancer. At the age of 40. When I was diagnosed, I should have only been halfway through my life, and yet three little words changed how I looked at everything. Forget about living until I'm 80. Will I even make it to 50? 60?
One of the most common pieces of advice given to cancer patients is to "stay positive". Easier said than done. You try staying positive when you have something inside you that could kill you. Even once it's gone.... destroyed by chemo, blasted by radiation, removed with surgery.... the wondering is always there. Will it come back? Did they get it all? Is there something lurking, growing somewhere inside of me, without me knowing?
It's a little irrational, but you'd be amazed how fast your mind can take an idea and run with it. A headache means a brain tumor. Pain in my ribs means bone cancer. A lump ANYWHERE means cancer. Major fatigue isn't caused by overdoing it or stress or meds.... it's the cancer overtaking my body.
Crazy, right? Except.... not. I'm an optimist and a dreamer, but cancer has made me a realist, too. There's a very real possibility that I will have to face this beast again in my lifetime. I hope and pray that I'm one of the lucky ones. That is my greatest wish, aside from happy and healthy lives for my children: to die an old woman from something other than breast cancer. I want to be one of those women my friends will talk about years from now, saying "She had breast cancer ten years ago and she's still doing great!" But I've known too many who have had it come back (some more than once). When you're faced with the worst case scenario, it's hard NOT to go there again and again. If it comes back, it's Stage IV. And that has no cure.
Years ago I had a miscarriage. I'd never known anyone who had been through that, I never in a million years expected it to happen to ME. I naively thought a positive pregnancy test meant a baby. Three weeks later, no baby. I was devastated. A month later I was pregnant again. You have no idea how fearful I was during those early days of that second pregnancy. I was pregnant before, and I lost that baby. I worried every day that it would happen again. Thankfully I was blessed with a perfectly healthy baby boy six days after his due date.
Fast forward three years.... another positive pregnancy test. Ten weeks later...another miscarriage. OH MY GOD. You see why I worried? Once it happens to you, you worry it will happen again. Once it happens to you AGAIN..... there are no words. Six months later I became pregnant again, and thankfully I had an obstetrician who was very careful (given my history) and scheduled me for monthly ultrasounds. Being able to see my baby time and again before she was born was so reassuring.
Maybe you can understand why sometimes fear drives me. There are no guarantees that I won't have to deal with this again. I actually have a higher than average risk of developing cancer again thanks to the BRCA gene. So sometimes.... I just have to wallow in self-pity and worry and convince myself that I'm going to have to "go there" again.
And then I put my big girl panties on and get over it.
Tonight I had dinner with a friend, and on the way home one of my all-time favorite songs came on. It's like Garth Brooks was giving me my own little pep talk:
Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow
It has now become today
So don't you sit upon the shoreline
And say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance that tide
And I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
I may be worried, and there are days the fear will rule my mind. But I want to chance the rapids, and I want to dance that tide. Whether I have two months or four decades left to live, I'm going to make the most of it, even on my bad days. Screw you cancer.