We all have our fears. They could be of people, like clowns, or things, like spiders. They could be of experiences, like the first day of school or work. Some fears may be justified and healthy and others serve no purpose other than to hold us back from achieving our goals.
Fear of Developing Cancer
Cancer is so prevalent that a fear of getting cancer is realistic; however, it’s one thing to fear cancer and another thing to do something about it. If your fear motivates you to change your lifestyle (for example, eating the right food, reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising) then the fear is serving a healthy purpose. While changing your lifestyle is no guarantee you won’t get cancer, studies show a high percentage of cancers can be prevented. The Canadian Cancer Society website states, “About half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the public.” I’m assuming that an example of “policies that protect the public” would be having regular screening for cancer, especially when there is a history of it in the family or you’ve reached an age that increases your risk of cancer.
An unhealthy fear is when you obsess about getting cancer or think it’s inevitable. Unfortunately, these people live with the constant fear that they will be next. Not everyone will develop cancer and spending valuable time worrying about what may never come can create the stress that could be a factor in causing cancer.
The other extreme is to be totally oblivious to the possibility of getting cancer. I was in this group. I never really associated being overweight with increasing my odds of getting cancer. No one in my immediate family had cancer, although some aunts and uncles had died from it. Even then, it still never hit home. Cancer continued to have a small ‘c’ for me.
Somewhere between these two extremes is probably the best place to be, especially if there is enough motivation to have a healthy lifestyle.
Fear of Cancer Returning
One you’ve had cancer, it’s now a reality and something that remains in your life forever more. Every day symptoms like a cough or a lumpy breast can bring those fears to the surface. This is what happened to me, and it took some effort to remain relatively calm. I kept telling myself that everything was okay until proven otherwise, which is what I did when I started my first cancer journey. Luckily, everything was okay, but the adrenaline rush of thinking that I was starting another cancer journey was a rush I could do without. The fear of cancer returning is always there. It just moves from the background to the foreground and back again. Those who have never had cancer or who are new to the cancer experience don’t understand how you live with this possibility hanging over your head. The answer is that you just do. Being given a second chance is not something to be wasted on thinking about whether or not that second chance will be taken away.
Fear of Wasting Time
Many people who have experienced cancer talk about not taking life for granted. To them, cancer was a wake-up call. It’s unfortunate that we need something scary to happen before we sit up and take notice that we have to live each day to the fullest. At first, I thought that meant I was supposed to cram everything into any given day. I thought sitting on the couch and watching TV with my husband or playing games on the computer were a waste of time and that I was not appreciating life. The truth is that there is a time and place for relaxing, especially when it’s alone time that you’ve been craving or quiet time spent with a loved one. They are not wrong. They just have to be balanced with making sure that those things you want to accomplish in life are not always put off to another day. I like to believe that I accomplish something each day, no matter how small. It could be completing something at work, making someone smile, or finally completing a task that you’ve been trying to do, even if it’s just beating a level in a game. For me, if I’m confident that I’m making a difference in other people’s lives and am happy with what I’ve accomplished (even if that accomplishment is to relax) then I have made good use of my time.
Fear of Failure
To be productive and achieve your goals means overcoming your fear of failure. Even the most confident people fear failure sometime (or many times) in their lives. They aren’t born confident. They regularly push fear aside so that they can try new things. Personally, if I’m asked to do something that’s outside my comfort zone, I usually say yes so that I can’t think about it too much. If I do, I’ll let enough fear develop to prevent me from doing something that should be new and exciting. That’s not to say that this technique is always the smartest approach, but it has worked for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel fear after I’ve made the commitment (like agreeing to speak somewhere), but I overcome it and deliver as promised. Using this technique has allowed me to do things that I never thought I would do. Don’t let the phrase, “I could never do that” be part of your everyday experience. As Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake never tried anything new.” It’s okay to fail if you learn something that will help you succeed.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with fear that may be keeping you from moving forward:
Over 30-years of writing experience, over five years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.