I know it’s normal to be afraid of chemo. But my rational brain keeps telling me that I shouldn’t be afraid – so many people have been through this and are doing great now! But this fear is different than anything I’ve felt before. Every time I think of the IV starting, I feel a pit in my stomach. So not my style, as one friend put it. I’ve jumped out of a plane, scuba dived with sharks, traveled foreign countries on my own – even lived through a bombing in Israel and managed to get on a bus after that. It’s not like I didn’t feel fear at any time – I did – but it didn’t feel like this. Never like this.
I do remember one huge fear. In my twenties, I was afraid I’d never heal the Ulcerative Colitis that doctors said I’d have “forever.” For nine years, I didn’t know when it would come back! But I just remembered the moment I made a huge shift that marked the end of that disease. It boiled down to letting go of of the fear of getting sick. I forgot this memory until now so maybe writing about this is more cathartic than I anticipated.
It was right after the bombing and I was incredibly upset – understandably. I remember thinking that if there was ever a time I would have a stress-induced colitis flare-up, it would be then. I ran through all the probable scenarios: prednisone (steroids that I hate), possible hospitalization, not being able to eat. But I remember standing in my cousin’s Jerusalem apartment, shrugging, and saying “oh well if I get sick, I’ll deal with it” and somehow I released this fear I’d lived with for years. I knew I would survive all those scenarios. Maybe knowing true fear – being in a war zone? – suddenly minimized the fear of getting sick. I don’t know. The disease petered out over the next year and I’ve been in remission ever since. (Mind you, I was doing a zillion healing things for my body at that time in addition to this change in perspective. Healing did not happen overnight at ALL.)
I have done it before – released a HUGE fear. I can do it again. The trick now is to let go of the fear of something I have NOT EXPERIENCED YET. I’m struggling with it for sure.
Perhaps my wise 12 year old nephew is right when he told me “it’s the cancer you should be afraid of, not the chemo.” Maybe I need to look at the big picture and recognize that my fear of this temporary treatment is not serving me because ultimately, it’s going to save my life. Like my fear of having a colitis flare-up, it’s small in the face of getting blown up or dying of cancer. It’s a teensy, weensy little fear that I can shrink with my mind at any time. Perhaps I should imagine the fear as a stone – and instead of it being this huge boulder, I’m shrinking it to this tiny rock. A rock that I can throw away at any time because it’s small enough for me to toss aside.
Or, my Uncle Larry, who went through chemo in the 80′s suggested, think of it like an athlete: chemo day is game day. Focus on preparing for it. Think strong. Create a routine. Go into your own world. Focus. I like this outlook. Everyone develops their own mindset to deal with this. I guess I’ll figure out mine.
It feels good to share my fears with you guys. And your advice helps A LOT. I’ve never been a public sharer but for some reason, this doozy of a diagnosis has helped me shuck that pride aside and ask for help. I’m glad I did because I’m learning a lot from all of you and from the experience of being vulnerable. 26 hours and counting. I can do this. My new mantra: I can do this.
Happy Passover & Happy Easter. Love, Jules