I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. Lots of people on the support boards are talking about their fears, and I think this is a great thing to talk about…partly because no one ever wants to talk about it and partly because I’ve been feeling this fear lately. So let’s talk about it.
So far through treatment, I have really tried to be as normal as possible. The initial shock of diagnosis and the emotions that come with waiting for a treatment plan were difficult. I went through all the stages that come with something big like this – shock, then anger, blame, denial and sadness. Eventually, as time went by and I began a treatment plan, it became acceptance.
But I’m not going to lie. I really went through a time where all I thought about was melanoma and cancer. I wanted to tell everyone and no one at the same time. The oxymoron of having cancer but looking normal was my norm. I hated being a patient, and I would purposefully do everything I could to look normal. Like having cancer was my little secret. But even if I looked normal, my thoughts were NOT normal, and my brain was screaming “I HAVE CANCER!” My person was a house with a beautiful facade, and a cracked, crumbling and leaking foundation that you can’t see from the outside.
I lived with my fearful thoughts everyday, and the list of “what ifs” just kept growing. What if I die? What if I make the wrong treatment choice? What if I have side effects? Complications? Lymphedema? How will I cope? How will my husband feel? The fear of the unknown kept growing inside of me.
Around the time I reached the peak of my fear, I realized my brain was a run-away train. These thoughts weren’t helping me to fight this disease, they were doing quite the opposite, because I wasn’t living my life. What makes us all unique is our thoughts, our psychology, our soul. I came to the realization that melanoma may take over my body, but what it couldn’t take was my personality. I am not my disease, and my disease will not limit who I am. I promised myself to fight the mental battle with this disease. And I promised I would win.
I’ve read a fair number of books on meditation and meaningfulness. I’ve read books (such as “When Breath Becomes Air” – a wonderful book) about life and death and cancer for perspective. Reading and mindfulness seem to help me quiet the fear. It gives me a different perspective, and reminds me of my mental goals. Whatever helps you to win that battle…do it. Whatever works for you. Try everything, and keep fighting. If you get too overwhelmed and find the fear is taking over, find help. Win the mental battle against melanoma and don’t let fear become your person. You are so much more than your cancer.