Cancer Chronicles, Part 8

After the surgery, a friend said, “I bet you’re worried about recurrence now.” I hadn’t thought about it, but after she mentioned it, I noticed the fear creeping in. And when it did, it did what fear always does: tightens the belly, contracts the heart, makes it difficult to take any kind of action.

Over the weeks, particularly as COVID has been surging again here in California and three friends were afraid they had it, I kept noticing the corrosive effects of fear. Being a catastrophizer from way back, I can really get into the whirlwind of fear. Is that pain in my breast a sign that the cancer is recurring? Did my doctor just tell me that if it recurs, I’ll need a mastectomy? What if that person I just passed breathed too hard through her mask and the aerosols (which now, it seems can project sixteen feet) reached me through my mask as I walked by? Is the scratchy throat I woke up with a sign of the virus or just a scratchy throat because I’m tired—and is this the kind of tired that is the virus kind of tired?

Oh, the mind, the mind. It can drive this person mad. And so the only thing I know to do is to keep coming back, keep returning to my feet on the floor, or, if it’s the middle of the night, the inky silence, the softness of the sheets, the comfort of the dark. What is here now. Because when I come back to what is here now, there isn’t a problem. There is nothing to be afraid of. If the cancer recurs, it recurs, and I’ll deal with it. I will know what to do. I’ll act to the best of my ability. But in the meantime, I don’t want to miss one second of this life (or one sunset) by getting tangled up in fear which always warns me that the sky is falling, the sky is falling instead of asking me to look up and notice that the very same sky is putting on a pink and orange spectacle like the one outside my window as I write these words.

To read more in the Cancer Chronicles, click here.

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