Reading some of my referral statistics the other day, I noted that quite a few people came to WOMP having googled the words, 'fear of cancer' so I did. Did you know that there are huge numbers of message boards filled with posts from people who are terrified of cancer? Whose parents, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, aunts and uncles have died or suffered from cancer and who are consequently living in the looming shadow of the ultimate Damoclean sword? What is even more incredible is that before I was diagnosed in September 2005 I was one of them.
My father died young of cancer. Although it was smoking induced, the time between diagnosis and death was only four months and I was always afraid that this would mean I too would be leaving early. Every cough could have been a symptom . Strangely enough though, when I was actually diagnosed with it the actual fear of having it left. Of course, the first thing you think of when you are diagnosed is that you are going to die, and die soon. Living with cancer isn't something our generation saw when we were young. We saw our relatives diagnosed and then quite quickly die of cancer. It is only our generation that is changing that; thousands of us are now living, loving, laughing with cancer.
And this brings me, I think, to my final point. Cancer, actually, isn't that scary. I freely admit that death is frightening, that leaving my girls without their mother is terrifying but actual cancer ISN'T SCARY. Cancer just is, and it happens to be part of my life at the moment and possibly in the future. It is much less frightening for the person going through the treatment and the cancer itself than it is for those who are closest both in proximity and love. That is something I have learnt. I was so frightened for my father, and I am not frightened for myself for I know the power or not within me.
Actually having cancer, in its own way, isn't that scary because it is certainty. Yes, it is unfavourable certainty; I know that statistically I shall not live until I am 70, I know that it will probably come back within the next 10 years or so and that it will eventually get me. I know that but it doesn't terrify me. On the contrary, it gives me a certain hope that I shall achieve those things that are most important to me. We all know the maxim of a 'bus getting us tomorrow'. A lovely red double decker bus may indeed get me, but cancer will almost certainly. But I am not afraid of getting it any more; cancer is just an illness and an illness cannot destroy a person, cannot wreck a family and cannot intimidate the human spirit. What it does do is make one realise how special time is on this earth, how precious the relationships and friendships are that we make, and how each of us has only one chance and that is here, and now.
Don't let the fear of a disease take your life away.