A Letter to My Fear

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This morning I had my first appointment with a counselor at the cancer center. Our session was mostly paperwork and getting-to-know-you questions, but toward the end, she asked me what tools I’m currently using to cope with my emotions in the wake of my diagnosis and treatment.

I told her about this blog and other writing I do, and before I left, she encouraged me to use some writing exercises to help work through all the feelings I’m experiencing now. One of her suggestions was to write a letter to my fear and/or my cancer. It sounds kind of hokey, but I’m going to give it a shot, starting with fear. Here goes.

Fear,

I won’t use the salutation “dear,” as you are no more dear to me than a smear of shit on the bottom of my shoe. You are no friend of mine. You are the enemy. You live to undermine me. To torture me. To keep me cowering in the dark, unable to make a move without worry or anxiety.

You’ve always been around. Even before cancer, you’d rear your ugly head before big presentations, on airplanes and even on days that should have been nothing but happy, like my wedding or the day my son was born.

But now, you’re especially vicious. You’re around every corner, it seems. No longer content to just lurk in the shadows, you parade around in the bright light of day, emboldened and relentless. You don’t care if I’m at work, at home, in the middle of something important or joyous. Like the unwelcome guest that you are, you horn in on good moments, popping up in places you don’t belong. You rob me of sleep, of solitude, of peace.

You drive me to Google symptoms over and over again. Pelvic pain. Back pain. Neck pain. Every little twinge sends me into a frenzy. The old me would chalk it up to sleeping wrong, exercising too hard or eating too much rich food. I’d pop an Advil or antacid and keep on moving. But with you on my shoulder, such nonchalance is impossible. Nothing is brushed off. There’s no such thing as just a little ache. Everything must be over-analyzed, scrutinized, fretted over. Every little feeling could be the beginning of impending doom when you take over my brain.

And here’s the thing–I don’t know how to shake you. I know my good buddy time will help me, but he takes his…well…time to do that. So what am I to do until then? Just put up with you? Allow you to control me? Allow you to make my life hell?

And if we’re being truthful here, even time won’t banish you from my life completely. You’ll always be there in some way, lurking around along the edges, just waiting for the opportunity to strike. You can smell my vulnerability like blood in the water–you know all my soft spots and when I’m at my weakest. No predator has ever stalked his prey with more deft cunning than you.

My only course of action is to face you. To call you out. To tell you to fuck off. To allow the rational side of my brain to tamp down the irrational, obsessive side more often. I know this will not be easy. This is going to be a bloody, brutal fight between you and me. But I’m ready. I’ve fought scarier, more dangerous opponents than you. Ask them how that went. I have reinforcements, and my team is stronger than yours. Let’s do this.

Until next time,

Jennifer

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Lucky

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It feels kind of odd to say this considering what I’m going through right now, but I am a very lucky person.

No, I’m not generally the one who wins the big giveaway, and I’ve been in a lottery pool for years and have yet to hit it big.

I guess lucky isn’t exactly the right word. Fortunate might be more correct.

When I got my cancer diagnosis, I felt just the opposite. I felt marked. Cursed. Unlucky.

But then a strange thing happened–the outpouring of love and support began to wash over me.

In the days, weeks and months since my diagnosis, I have experienced a level of love and support I never thought possible. From the unfailing love of my husband and family to the constant cheering of close friends to the unrelenting support of my coworkers to the texts, emails, cards and Facebook messages of former coworkers, high school classmates and friends-of-friends, the level of love, kindness and concern I’ve received has truly humbled me.

At first, I didn’t really know how to handle it. I got tired of people constantly asking how I was. I even had the audacity to complain about all the attention (I know, could I have been a bigger, more ungrateful brat?). But once I got over the initial flurry, my heart just swelled with the love I’ve felt from others. It has moved me to happy tears more than once, and it continually restores my faith in humanity.

Whether it’s a container of homemade soup from a dear friend, or a comment from a complete stranger on this very blog, these gestures mean so much to me. They help me get through the rough days, and they remind me that there are so many good people in this world, and I am so very lucky to know and be touched by so many of them.