Fear is something I have experienced much of in the last nine years since my diagnosis, and my feeling is that it is not something that I “surmount” or “overcome”, but something that I go “through”. It is not always pleasant, and coming out on the other side is not always a victory march. Sometimes the only benefit to living through my fear is the reminder that I am human and that suffering is part of the experience.
Sounds depressing huh? Well not really. For me I think that living through fear is the stuff that compassion is made of. It is what allows me to understand and empathize with other people’s suffering. When writing and researching my book Everything Changes, I sat in the living rooms of so many twenty and thirty-something cancer patients who confessed to me their most private thoughts about living young with illness. They talked to me because I listen and I get it, because I have been there and done that. And when I say been there and done that I’m not talking about cancer, I’m talking about walking through fear. Fear is a monster but it is also a common denominator that connects me to other people’s experiences of life.
I am living with two tumors in my neck that don’t uptake radio active iodine treatment and there is a limit to how many surgeries I can have. Sometimes fear is too much for me and I have to check out from it by sticking my head in the TV or popping a xanax. I cannot walk through fear 24/7. But I do walk through it a lot. And it’s scary. I’d so very much prefer living an alternate life with an alternate medical history, but I do recognize that living with fear just means that I am human, and for now, I have to take what I’ve got.
How do you cope with fear? Has the way you handled fear changed the longer you’ve lived with illness? Did you have any idea just how much the cowardly lion looks like a cheap drag queen?