Monday, May 3, 2010

Fear...Part Two

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 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.


scmom (Barbara) said...

I'm sorry that you had such a sad childhood, Nancy. And, of course, you bring that with you into adulthood, and married life, and parenthood. Your relationship with God is really the only thing that can change your temptation to dwell in fear. Fear is, ironically, a comfortable place for you. You know it. You can deal with it. It takes courage to fight it. Like you said, it's easier to distract yourself. Ask God to take it from you. It may take some time, but He will. Trust in God. He is good.

Colleen said...

Beautiful post Nancy. Hugs.

Frizzy and Bird said...

I think this is the most Honest and Heartfelt post I've EVER read. It grips me like I can't explain. I've never had cancer (Knock on wood) but just the thought of it puts fear in me like no other. My Mother in Law is a breast cancer survivor as well as her mother and her sister. They are all strong women just like you. I honestly don't believe there is a rhyme or reason to who beats it or who battles it for the rest of their lives. What I do believe is important is what you do with the time you're given. I know you don't take your family or your life for granted. NOt for even a second. I'm thankful for that and I know you're family is too. As for your fears, let us help you through prayer and support. I'm here for you my friend.

Therese said...

Another beautiful post, Nancy! Again, I am led to wonder why we are so far apart geographically-I wish I were closer to you...I live much the same way...different reasons, but much the same way...

Mum2eight said...

Oh Nancy,

This is just beautiful. I too am sorry you had such a hard childhood.

I will keep on praying for you.

God bless

Sarah Oldham said...

My heart rejoices in your health, but my heart aches for your fear. Your fears are very understandable! Thank you for this BRAVE post. God is good!

Mary333 said...

My dad was an alcoholic and bipolar, the two don't mix well and I knew fear, too. My mom worked all day and we pretty much fended for ourselves like you. Growing up that way is tough and I'm sorry any child has to go through that.

You are a beautiful, loving woman who has fought a rough childhood, cancer and gone through awful medical procedures that would have sank a lot of women by now. I consider you very courageous. Even Jesus fought fear in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is part of our human nature. He understands this and we can trust Him. I will pray that He helps you with this. God bless you my friend.

Anonymous said...

You will be receiving Donna Hicken's book, Through Rose Colored Glasses on how she has learned not to let fear be in control of her after 3 bouts of cancer. I hope it is an inspiration for you.

Gramma 2 Many said...

Nancy, I am sorry I almost missed this post. Fear is such a consuming entity. I had a dear friend give me this verse one time when I was fighting this enemy. 2Tim1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love and of a sound mind. I use it often as it still enters my life. Not with the force it once had, but it still tries.
You know my daughter is now almost seven years cancer free. It is an insidious disease that is unwilling to leave but it can be conquered. I am thankful every day that I have not had to say goodbye to her on this earth.
Stay strong and true to our Lord the one Risen Saviour. Salvation and healing comes through him.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy,

I came across your blog randomly today, noticing the "Do not be Afraid" headline.

I too have dealt with anxiety disorders for years, but am quickly overcoming them. The way I am doing this is realizing that no matter what, I am never in any danger, because God is there protecting me.

That's really the key, because anxiety tells you that there's something to fear, that you're in danger. But in reality, there never was, never is, and never will be any danger. You are safe ALWAYS.

It literally doesn't matter the situation, I am always safe and so are you.

Even in death, even with cancer, even in the most horendous situation imaginable, God says to me and to you, "you are not in danger because I am leading the way. You are safe always because you rest in my unconditional love."

Thanks be to God for that promise.

Praying for you!