I think that my anxiety had disappeared because I felt safe. When living with my mom, we (my sister and I) were often “alone”. Physically, my mom was….present. But, emotionally, we were all alone. Most of the time my mom was in a drunken state….off in her own world where her own emotional baggage was bearable. Often, she would drink until she passed out…for hours at a time and not easily awakened, leaving my sister and I to fend for ourselves.
This is when the television became a companion. Just to have it on, hearing the voices of the Andy Griffith Show, The Munsters or Road Runner, helped me to not feel so alone. At least there was noise. Sadly, this dependence on the TV for company did not go away once I reached adulthood. I still have an unhealthy fixation with it….especially at night. When it seems that the entire world is asleep except for me, when I feel the loneliest, the TV is a rope, a life-line of sorts. It’s a form of distraction. I can escape from all that is turmoil inside of me.
When I was a child, I could pretend the t.v. was my mom. As a single adult, it became a roommate and a friend. More recently, it became my way of pretending that there is no cancer. If I could just keep my mind off of the fact that I’ve just lost my breast, all my female parts, my identity as woman…then maybe it isn’t real and I don’t have to be so afraid. I don't feel safe knowing I have had cancer.
Why is cancer so frightening? Is it the fear of the unknown? Is it fear of pain and suffering? Is it a fear of death? Yes….all of those things. As I write this, it was just announced that actress Lynn Redgrave just passed away (age 67) after a 7 year battle with breast cancer. Three weeks ago, I lost a dear friend of mine...also of breast cancer. She fought the battle twice! And yet another dear friend is currently dealing with breast cancer that has spread to a different part of her body. When does it end?
Sometimes, I wonder if this is all just a big game. One day, you're diagnosed and then, the next your playing the game of treatment. You jump through all the hoops that current science says you have to, knowing full well that there is a decent chance that it won't matter anyway. It seems as though you can spend anywhere from 2 to 10 years (sometimes longer) as a guinea pig. The medical community concocts a special "cocktail" for you in order to kill the cancer cells. You deal with nausea, fatigue and baldness (among other things) and there is still no guarantee that you won't be revisited by this nasty disease again.
Right now, treatment is over for me. Mine was completed on December 1st, 2008. I am quickly marching toward my 2 year anniversary of my diagnosis (July). Once your treatment is complete...you wait...and you wait and wait and wait some more. Every few months you visit the oncology office again just to touch base with them....praying to God that they don't give you bad news about the most recent PET scan. The sight and smell of that place brings you right back....right back to where you were when you were actively fighting it. You live with daily fear that it will return. Every ache and pain could mean that it's back.
This is how I now live....thankful for every breath that I'm allowed to take...every moment that I have with my family....yet almost paralyzed with fear at times that it could be my very last. I see and hear of deaths due to breast cancer and I wonder "how long will it be before it gets me too"?
Variations of the phrase "Be Not Afraid" appear in Sacred Scripture something like 85 times! Almost every time an angel appeared, they said "Be Not Afraid"! Even Pope John Paul II asked us to not be afraid. So why am I so darn afraid? I can't answer that. I only know that I am.
As I travel this road...this journey, I know that fear will be a part of it. I'm a veteran at dealing with it. I will still use the coping mechanisms I used as a child...and I'm quite sure the TV will be on tonight when I fall asleep! I ask for your prayers, dear readers, as I round each corner and face what's next. Thank you for allowing me a place to talk about my fears. I know God is there, ready...willing and able to handle all of it and to give me the grace and strength to continue to move forward.
"Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come, follow me...and I will give you rest."
You can read Part One here.