Does the Fear of Reoccurrence Ever Go Away?

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

Working with those going through cancer, and speaking from my own personal experience, this is often a topic of conversation and contemplation. The answer to the question varies with each individual as cancer’s experience is unique to everyone.
 
Personal Experience

In those first years after the initial cancer diagnosis – I’d say the first five years – which seems to be the benchmark for surviving cancer, it would be in my mind. Not daily, but there nonetheless. It would creep in when I had a twinge somewhere. I’d be thinking ‘has it come back?’

There were some scares in those first five years, issues which I had investigated. They turned out to be nothing major – no cancer. So over time, I’ve learned to only worry about something if I have something to worry about.

In my early reading, I came across ‘Quantum Healing’ by Deepak Chopra. One concept stuck with me and propelled me into my healing journey. The following is a paraphrase of his concept as I understood it.

The body is like a river, always present, always changing. The secret to healing is to erase the memory of the illness out of the DNA.

Simple, but so complex! How does one do that? With great intention and mind shifts! It means wiping the fear of reoccurrence and cancer out of your mind and therefore, out of my cell memory. Not that easy but I figured doable.

When I realized that ‘when’ I was going to die was totally out of my realm of control, I started living in the present – the time I had which I could control. I could control how I thought, how I felt, how I dealt with my life. With my focus on the now, the fear of the ‘what if’ seemed to recede.

It’s not easy to change a lifetime of built in beliefs and habits. It’s difficult. It requires digging down into your soul to find those parts of yourself that may have been lost in your journey through life. They can be inherent in the way you were brought up – passed on for generations.

We assume roles out of necessity and life changes that may or may not be compatible with our inner self. How does one breach these ingrained and well worn ways of being? By stripping away the layers of denial and unawareness – self-discovery! By being aware, we have the choice to make shifts.
 
Two Camps of Thinking

Speaking to others about their fear of reoccurrence, I’ve discovered there are two camps of thinking.

1.   Remission – you are healed but are in remission. The theory being that eventually cancer will return after a number of years. This is rather like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never really bought into this way of thinking.

2.   Gone – once healed, the cancer is gone, much like the concept put forth by Deepak Chopra. This was and is my camp of thinking. My theory is that if cancer ever came back, it would be for another reason and a different cancer – totally not related to the first occurrence.

 
That does not mean that I live my life carelessly without regard for the lessons I learned going through my cancer journey. Quite the opposite! I am conscious of where I am on my healing path – or if I’m on it at all. Let’s get real. We are not perfect. Life calls and we occasionally will get drawn offside onto paths that are interesting, exciting, or not, and pretty soon, we are off side. Then it’s time to reassess and get back on track.

In talking to others going through cancer, this is their challenge. What is their path? What do they want to do with the rest of their life? What have they abandoned – dreams, goals, etc.? As mentioned before, it is not an easy journey for most. However it is life work that will reap dividends for you, regardless of cancer. Healing a life is a worthwhile pursuit.
 
What does a path look like?

It’s that place in your heart where you feel totally in sync with life. People always used to tell me to ‘be in the flow’. Took a while for that to penetrate, but when I finally got it, it was so true. When you are true to yourself, what you believe, how you want to live, who you want in your life, life flows effortlessly bringing with it joy and fulfilment. It seems easy.

When you are out of sync, everything feels like you are trying to push a rock uphill. It’s difficult. Nothing goes together easily. Relationships struggle. Plans take so much energy to put together.

Do you recognize these truths? You may, or maybe not. But think back to times in your life when everything just seemed to fall into place. That is when you were in the flow – on your path at that given moment in life.

Life will change. Your path may shift slightly. But there will be an integrity to the flow – a common bond born of intuition and knowing through trial and error. There will be consistencies.
 
Will fear then recede?

Eventually it will. One of the fears is just the fact that one day we will all die. When I was going through treatment, my fear wasn’t so much that I would die as how I would die. Dying of cancer can be unpleasant and painful. It’s something we don’t want to talk about.

However, I had a cancer buddy – a dear friend who I met in the hospital – we were roomies. We were there for each other the whole way through our treatment and even after when I moved away. Our conversations would cover the whole gamut of emotions, fears, uncertainties, and philosophies about death and dying. We enriched each other and supported each other. We verbalized our fears and doubts thus consigning them to the ethers so we didn’t carry them inside.
 
Do you have a cancer buddy?

I encourage you to find a person, or group, or community where you can speak freely in a safe place. Unburdening fears and concerns helps put them in perspective. It also gives you a way of diffusing the fear and identifying what is real and what is just worry. There are real fears for sure. But don’t let fears stop you from moving forth into a full life for as long as you have – any of us have.

It may not be cancer that takes you out. When I was staying in the Lodge in Victoria during the week while getting radiation, an incident occurred that brought this home to me very clearly. One of the social workers at the Cancer Clinic went to pick up her mail with her daughter at their mailbox along the road. They were both hit by a car, killing the mother and seriously injuring the daughter. Cancer wasn’t involved. Life was. Was it unfair – absolutely! I realized that here I was worrying about dying of cancer and she just walked up the road to pick up her mail and she was gone. Go figure!
 
Go Live Your Life

Action trumps fear. When you focus on living your life as best you can in the situation, miracles do happen. Your body gets into living mode, bringing healing energy and healthy vibrations. The power of the mind is real and powerful. Have you read ‘The Biology of Belief’ by Dr. Bruce Lipton? Well worth a read.

We’re not talking about positive thinking alone – often referred to as the ‘tyranny of positive thinking’. We’re talking being proactive. Finding something that matters to you and taking action to make it happen. There is always the action part of the positive thinking equation – a part often missed.

It’s like the word ‘try’. It’s very hard to try. You either do or you don’t. There is no try.
 
In Retrospect

I am still learning, adjusting, being aware, and working to walk my talk. There are times it is easy and times when it is challenging, especially when walking my talk is not in line with the status quo. Then I have to realize that I will never please everybody, not everybody will understand, and not everybody will like me. The important thing is that this is my life and I need to be true to me whatever the consequences. And, there have been consequences. I have made huge lifestyle shifts in the years since my cancer. They were difficult but the best things I ever did.

What about you? Are you walking your talk or just finding your way? Life is an adventure. It’s not perfect, but it can be so worthwhile. Dare to live and see what happens. You may be totally surprised.

To finding your path,

Barbara

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