It’s Okay To Be Afraid
Fear is debilitating. It can cripple your mind, body, and soul. It bears a weight that sits heavy within your heart. It shadows your joy and mocks your hopes. Fear is a bitch. But it’s an inevitable emotion that you ride throughout your cancer journey whether you wish to or not, you buckle up and take that roller coaster to the darkest corners in your mind.
For me, it was the unknown that was the absolute hardest of fears to bear. I knew I had cancer. I just didn’t know the extent of the cancer, what the treatments would entail, and what my prognosis would be. I questioned my survival and sobbed at the thought of never getting to be Liam’s mommy. My blood ran cold at the very idea of missing out on Liam’s life; watching him learn, grow, and blossom into the beautiful boy-adolescent-man that he will become. I worried that he would never know me; that he would not remember the lullabies I sang to him, the stories I read, the sound of my voice, and the countless sleepless nights that I cuddled and soothed him. I was terrified that he would not remember the love I bestowed upon him (he was only 21 months old when I was diagnosed). That was the fear that truly crippled me the most. It was also the fear that gave me my strength.
As I prepared myself for battle my little Liam picked up on all the heightened emotions that I, my husband, and my parents emitted. He could not settle. He could not sleep. He could not let go of me. His desperation fuelled my determination to beat this disease. I was prepared to lose my breast, it was a small price (both literally and figuratively) to pay to ensure that my life be spared. I was terrified, but I knew I had to be strong because my son needed me. He needed his mommy. I underwent my mastectomy and (thanks be to God) my prognosis was excellent. I was lucky in an unlucky situation.
But there does come a point in time when the fear comes back. It arrives at the most inconvenient of moments and paralyses you. For me, that moment occurred when my Surgical Oncologist released me from his care. I was crippled with the fear that my cancer would return. I slowly began to tumble back into that dark place and I couldn’t pull myself out of it. I panicked as I succumbed to the fear. I was no longer functioning as a mommy, a wife, or as a person. I was drifting through a dense fog of uncertainty and terror and I didn’t know how to find the way out on my own.
Cancer can make you feel incredibly alone. You’re life is now “marked” and because of that you can easily fall into isolation. Fortunately, I was a patient at Princess Margaret Hospital. This establishment is not only an institution that heals you physically, but also a community that is concerned with your well-being as a whole. The programs available to cancer patients and survivors are abundant and resourceful. Knowing I had to do something to ease my burden of fear, I bravely picked up the phone and called the Psychosocial Oncology Clinic. I asked for help. It was at that moment that my journey to heal – as a whole – truly began. I had a safe place to go to talk, cry, and express my emotions and fears without being judged or upsetting those whom I love.
My Social Worker – who has selflessly helped me throughout my journey – said something to me early on in our sessions that resonated with me “The fear may never leave you, and that’s okay.” She reminded me that it is okay to be afraid, to allow myself to feel that emotion, but to make sure that I did not succumb to it. I learned to face the fear, feel it, and then move on from it. I no longer panicked if the fear resurfaced. I simply allowed the fear to pass over me, helping it along the way by using techniques such as breathing, singing, dancing with Liam, piano, and journalling to release the fear into the universe and let go of it. This remains one of the hardest lessons that I have learned through this journey, but I am incredibly grateful to her for teaching me that it’s okay to be afraid.
It really is okay to be afraid, no matter what your fear may be – but – do not succumb to your fears. Live your life. Laugh lots, cry often, be silly, be courageous, be strong, make mistakes. You get this one chance. You get this one life. You are the only ‘you’ to grace this earth. Embrace it all. It’s going to be okay.
It’s Okay To Be Afraid. Published by Crystal Joy Hall