Friday, January 21, 2011

Afraid in the Dark

You know, it's a weird time. I flipped over to Daria's blog, and much to my shock, she's now unable to blog. I mean, just last week, she was blogging. I knew that she was having some difficulties, but she was functioning. She was living. This week, they're making hospice arrangements.

I feel a shiver of fear as I read her blog. The thing is, I go to school. I study. I work. I blog. I'm busy. I'm doing things. I'm alive. And I take comfort in the fact that I am doing all these things. Obviously, I'm not sick, or else I couldn't do these things, right? But last week, Daria was having troubles but marching right on, and then it all changed. The sheer speed with which circumstances can change frightens me, and then I get stupid. I find myself thinking, "I can't take the shrink wrap off my text books until I know for sure how things are going to work out at Tuesday's appointment. That way, I can return the books to the campus bookstore for full credit if things turn out badly." What kind of dip wad thinks like that?

The answer is me. I do.

It's not just me, even though I feel very alone sometimes. A friend was going to meet me at the cafeteria. I waited, but she didn't show. She called that night to apologize, and to tell me that she was taking the semester off. She's coming up on her third year. She's triple negative, and her understanding of things is that her cancer will likely come back, usually within three years, but if she can make it to five years, it probably won't be back. She's already had it twice. She's looking at this three year mark, and finds herself feeling superstitious and afraid. She tried to explain it to yet another friend who'd had cancer, and he said, "I know how it is. I got so afraid that I cried at work the other day." After much thought, she just decided to take a semester off, to pull herself together. So, no. I know it is not just me who gets scared.

The fear is there, and it is real. Everywhere I've looked, post treatment fear is normal, but I have to say, around here, it's not really addressed. No tips for coping with the fear. I just get the notion that I'm not supposed to be afraid. I was at work before Christmas. I saw a doctor in my check out line. I said to him, "Hi, Dr. ---- and his response was a mock shocked look. "You're still here?!!! Why, I'm shocked." I was speechless really. I didn't even respond, although my mind was whirling. What? I'm supposed to be embarrassed because I found another lump and insisted it be biopsied? I'm supposed to be embarrassed because I am trying to be vigilent? He'd told me in his office once, "What are you so afraid of? If anything, you were over treated." I stared at him. What does that mean? People are treated for cancer every day. The plain and simple fact is that it does come back sometimes. Trying to remember, I probably was asking him for numbers, for odds. Mary had just been diagnosed a second time, and her news had rattled my cage. I don't know for sure, but I know whatever was going on that day, I was afraid, and I had questions, and I walked out of there feeling like a big dummy. I walked out of there feeling ashamed of my fear. So what did the doctor mean by his comment? I don't know. I was afraid to ask.

I remember once talking to my regular doctor, and he asked how things were going and I said good, but then admitted that sometimes in the dark, I got scared. He said, "Well, of course you do." I'm telling you true, I got tears in my eyes, to hear that what I was feeling was normal.

I've been thinking about this a lot. About the fear. I deal with a lot of pain. It's pretty much constant. Sometimes, not so bad. Other times, it's horrible. I guess it's exacerbated by the cold. I don't know. All I know is that it is hard to be optimistic and positive when I feel like crap a great deal of the time. So sometimes I do get scared. Cancer is all around me, and every time I turn around, it seems like someone else has been diagnosed. Every time I hear of someone new, there is that prickle of fear. I've lost friends this year. Each time, there was a prickle of fear. Is this unrealistic? No. I really don't think so.

I'm a pragmatic person. I tend to look at things squarely. It is what it is. So what is it? Well. I'm 53 years old. I've had cancer. I'm trying to manage chronic pain. Perhaps it is just the weariness of dealing with that pain that makes me so tired. I don't know. It does seem that it has gotten worse. It is what it is, but I don't know what it is, not really, so sometimes I get afraid in the dark.

There. I've said it out loud. I'll say it again. Sometimes I get afraid in the dark. But every morning, I get up. I go out the door, and I do what needs doing. I guess that I'm a brave coward. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm heartily sick and tired of feeling like a jackass because sometimes I get afraid in the dark.


Donna said...

We're all scared. I must say, my dear, that you have a gift for writing. You could make money at this; I only wish I knew how, so I could tell you.

WhiteStone said...

In the dark! Heck, Woman, I think of it all the time! lol.

I've seriously thought about getting a tattoo. You know, once I thought I'd live to be 90 like my parents and grand-parents. Now I'd be happy to settle for 70...well...75. How about 75?

Anyway...the tattoo. Something like this...

"Exp Date March 2035. Unless God Has Predetermined Otherwise."

(In 2035 I'll turn 90.)

Whatdya think? Do ya suppose an expiration date might work? I'll try it. If it works, you can do the same. But you might want to pick a date further out than mine.

Nancy K. said...

Of COURSE you're afraid! How could you possibly NOT be afraid? That doesn't make you weak.

It makes you human.


Brianna said...

That doctor sounds like an insensitive moron, Mom. Don't pay him any mind. I'd be pretty willing to bet that he's never had cancer, so he can't possibly know what it's like to survive it, and what the aftermath is like. There WILL be fear, there WILL be doubt, and you will always be "looking over your shoulder" to see if it's still around. That's normal, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! However, just know that you have a lot of people pulling for you. Buddy and I pray every day that it won't come back, and we know it's worked thus far! In the meantime, enjoy every day. There's a song by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews called "I'm Alive". I don't know if you've heard it, but it's a song about being grateful and rejoicing in simply living another day, alive and well. You really should look it up. Every time I hear it, I think of you. Love you! :)

Kelly said...


Caroline said...

That cancer thing is always there. The 'what if'... But so sad about Daria. I have been following her story too.

jeanie said...

That is the funny thing about life - it is wonderful and amazing that so much exists and survives and it is shocking and scary how it can be sinisterly sucked away from us - or even smote.

I think fear is a positive thing in certain situations - it means you are alive and making sure the shadows don't sneak up.

But I also think you have another gift that you impart - which you had pre-cancer - is that you turn the spotlight on life and show what you can notice, with fear, with delight, with wisdom...

Hugs to you.

Debby said...

Ah, WhiteStone...I best not get a would be a waste of money. I've read that the world is supposed to end on my birthday...shoot! Makes it hard to plan a party, doesn't it? :D

quid said...

Of course you're afraid. I would like it if you could see someone to counsel you about pushing back that fear. I think that your activities right now are cathartic (writing, school, good works) and so you're not in desparate need of talk therapy. Still, it might help you feel more whole.

The doctor was callous when he questioned your fear, but in a way, he is right about pushing on and not letting the fear conquer you, by banishing it. Sometimes, the things that happen to people who have faced a life-threatening illness are downright jaw dropping.

My friend Allen asked the office manager of his oncologist for a new disabled parking pass for the world famous cancer center. This was in his 6th year of treatment.... she smiled and gave him a six month pass. His previous passes had been for 2 years. He looked at it and said... "Is this because you don't expect me to outlast 6 months.". She blabbered a little, but it was obvious that was what had occurred to her, she just didn't mean to send the message.

I like to hear Allen tell that story, which occured 2 years ago. He got a 2 year pass from another cancer center.


A Novel Woman said...

Fear is normal, but learn to release it before it overtakes you. It's a decision you make. And of course pain affects your thinking but the pain is a necessary side effect of the medication helping to keep you healthy so think of that as a necessary battle with an end in sight. (Another two years, right?)

As for that doctor, well accept that he is an a-hole pure and simple. Do NOT let him get under your skin. He is the worst kind of doctor, one who treats only the disease, not the person with the disease. A good doctor listens, works in tandem with his patient. You need to accept that you are right, and he is wrong. Defend yourself, if only in your mind.

Think about how you'd react if this was a loved one he was treating this way. I'd bet anything you'd come out swinging. Do the same for yourself.

Bill of Wasilla said...

That doctor needs to go back to medical school and take "compassion 101."

Debby, I am sorry to learn about your friend and I feel badly that you must experience his fear and that so many do.

Concerning cancer, I have a great deal of fear in me, too - but I won't explain right now.

Just keep writing and dealing and I'm sure you feel very alone sometimes, yet you have a world of people backing you up, believing in you and praying for you.

Bill of Wasilla said...

Whitestone - heck. 90 - you'll still be a young kid! Go for 2045!

Anonymous said...

What A Novel Woman said? Absolutely right and excellent advice. I hope all these nuturing blog friends have made you feel better. They surely do care about you!! Keep the faith, Woman! Love you. Judy

Lydia said...

I can't imagine how a person would NOT have fear after living through the hell of cancer, and seeing those around them suffer.

Thanks for shining a light on fear. Somehow, those things that are spoken and looked at lose their power.

Thanks also for getting up and doing what needs doing.

cyn said...

Debby - this really spoke to me. My husband's aunt, who is also a breast cancer survivor and someone I hold very dear, says night time is when the ghosts come out. My coping strategy is ridiculous - my husband bought me an iPod and I listen to podcasts about world news or humour in the middle of the night. Anything to keep my mind from running the scenarios over and over in my head. In the daylight, it is easier somehow for me to maintain context. So, kind if like midnight denial. But it works, I go back to sleep and help my body get ready to cope with the next day.

I just wished that everyone around me understands the fear is still here. And, that they respect the fear. My two cents.

Thanks for being a spot of light in the day!

BUSH BABE said...

I don't have the words to truly combat your fear Debby - I have absolutely no doubt that pretty much every person who has walked a mile similar to yours would experience the same thing. I went perilously close to losing a child, and that fear never leaves me. Never. I suppose it is a human survival thing.

Just don;t let it mess with your mind - living is the key, and you are living well. Brianna spoke so beautifully above - take comfort in her words as well as all those who have left their note here on this great post.

PaintedPromise said...

wow Debby... you have some awesome friends who say awesome things... and Briana? VERY, VERY NICE!!!!! i couldn't think of anything to add so i'll just say, DITTO!

oh, and since you are keeping busy... go look here :)

BUSH BABE said...

So sorry to read about Daria. Hope you are doing okay...

nancyspoint said...

Debby, Great post here and you describe something we all feel. I am afraid more often than I'd like to admit. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, keeping fears at bay is even harder. That doctor understood. That's a rare thing it seems. Sometimes we just want our feelings acknowledged, I think that's what your doctor did for you and you were touched by it. The news about Daria brings those fears out again, plus it's just so sad. It makes me sad and angry like I posted about today. Anyway, your fears are more than normal. Thanks for sharing them.

Doris said...

You made me not so afraid of being afraid.