This post is part of our Survivorship Week series, June 2-9.
"As a survivor, is it tough to work here and be constantly reminded that your cancer could come back?"
This is a question I've been asked a few times and, honestly, never know how to answer. For the sake of this post, I'd say the answer is yes, and no.
It's not that I never think about a recurrence. What cancer survivor doesn't? I just try not to let those thoughts consume me. If I did, it would be debilitating and I would never leave the house. I know this to be true because it's what actually happened.
Eight years ago, when I rang the bell that signified freedom from the toxic assault that is chemotherapy and radiation, I cautiously celebrated. Cautiously because I did have fear then -- fear of recurrence and uncertainty.
I guess that's true for a lot of cancer patients recently out of treatment, but it felt more so for me. I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 29 and had no family history of it. So, the chances of another freak occurrence like that happening again scared me tremendously.
Fear versus motivation
Fortunately, I learned that fear isn't a good place to live, but the lesson didn't come quickly. It took several weeks of professional counseling, a few forced social outings and hundreds of television travel shows to get me out of that funk and to start imagining all the life experiences I could be missing out on.
I began to ask myself questions like:
- Why should the travel show hosts have all the fun?
- How's the brunch at the new cafe that just opened?
- If I don't go to so-and-so's party, I won't get to show off the cute shoes I bought, will I?
Questions of significant importance, I know. OK, so maybe just to me, but they worked.
To me, fighting fear isn't just about having the courage to do so. Really, it's about finding the motivation. I believe that courage is born out of motivation.
Your motivation could be as simple as spending time with friends and family. Or finishing much-needed renovations around the house. Or something as wild as bungee jumping off the tallest structure on the planet. The latter is certainly not one of my motivations, but to each his own.
Motivation to do things, and not fear of what may or may not happen, is what allows me to do what I do, in the places that I do them and with the people that I do them with. This isn't to say that I jump blindly into everything, but now I at least consider doing it.
After all, uncertainty doesn't always have to be a bad thing. And I crave human interaction, shoe shopping, office coffee and exploring the world too much not to indulge myself.