Fear has the ability to paralyze you. You want to protect yourself. You don't want to tempt your body into the danger zone. You put yourself into a bubble because you are afraid of what will happen if you pop that bubble. To take yourself away from your safety net? Far too risky.
Fear paralyzes you, emotionally and physically...
Unless you stand up to it.
Today I had the pleasure of working with a woman who is celebrating her 10 year breast Cancer-versary. For the sake of her privacy, let's call her Mary. People with cancer tend to automatically click, this case was no different. This woman knew my story through the grapevine, but I had not heard hers. It is a bit odd how similar our stories are despite our different types of cancer. We actually even had the same surgeon--he specializes in breast cancer and melanoma. Mary and I were discussing our issues following the lymph node dissections and the aftereffects that the surgeries have had on our bodies. Mary asked me if I use my arms in the way that I did Pre-Melanoma. I explained that I ignored my original oncologist and still use my arms and that I am actually going to the gym to try to regain the muscle that I have lost in the past year. I never know how people will respond to someone going against a doctor's orders, but Mary disobeyed her doctor too.
Mary shared an emotional memory with me today. She told me, "I remember going for radiation and the doctor said, "this may hurt. I am going to stretch your arm out but only stretch it as far as you can. It may be painful." Mary stretched her arm to a fully extended position, looked at her doctor, and said, "No. Pain is being told I have cancer. Everything stopped. Everything. That is real pain."
Mary looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Now I go to the gym 3 times a week and lift weights. I use those arms. That is not pain to me. I have felt real pain. This? I can handle."
Fear, if you let it win, has the ability to stump you. It will cause you to stop living life the way that you used to live because you are terrified of jeopardizing your current healthy state. You start to think in terms of the next day, but God knows you don't plan for the next year. You are scared to make permanent plans because you don't know how you are going to feel, you don't know where you are going to be, you don't even know if you will be. Finalizing future plans is a risk because your future is so unknown.
I am talking about myself. Ask me to make a serious permanent decision and I will wiggle my way out of it. It terrifies me. How can I buy a house if I don't know if I am going to be healthy in 3 months? How will I have a baby (far in the future!) if I don't know what the scans will show in 3 months? Should I even have a baby? Why should I sign up to go back to school if there is a chance I may have to drop out because Melanoma shows its face again?
It will keep you up many of nights just thinking about those things!
I shared some of these fears with my friend Max over green beer on Saturday night. He asked one question: "Are you going to live like you are dying?" Max did not ask that question in the Tim McGraw ride-a-bull-&-go-sky-diving type of way. He meant, am I going to live day by day, not making any permanent decisions all because melanoma may show up again?
I tried to defend myself. I blurted out the statistics. I talked about the 2 more years of chemo sessions I have. I dropped names of Molemates who we have lost this year. Again, Max asked, "Are you going to live your life or are you going to live like you are dying?"
I have felt real pain. I have had, like Mary shared, my world come to a halt. I know what it is like to actually have to face the fact that I may not survive this. I also know that I have opportunities that some of my cancer friends no longer have. I have the opportunity to not only exist, but I have the opportunity to live.
It is time to stop holding myself back just because I am scared of the future.
"I have felt real pain. This? I can handle."