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The Fear Factor

I admit to watching those beautifully filmed wildlife videos on TV. I will never get to go on an exotic safari or ride a camel through the desert, so I am able to able to satisfy my sense of adventure from the comfort of my armchair.

There is always at least one scene where a lion or tiger, looking for a meal, lowers its head, ready to charge at some poor animal who takes off like a rocket. I find myself cheering for the lesser creature, hoping that what it lacks in aggression it will make up for in speed. Sometimes, that’s exactly what happens as the prey manages to put a little distance between them, and the predator, tired from the pursuit, stops abruptly, panting for air. Once the threat has passed, the target stops, too, and calm is restored.

And for most creatures, that’s how fear works, taking them from a non-threatening situation, propelling them into present danger, and then restoring peace until the next crisis. Only human beings manage to remain in a state of panic and distress, even without an imminent emergency, visualizing scenarios we have never experienced. Oh, how we imagine what might happen, what evil might befall us, tapping into the “what ifs” of life until we are unable to think of anything else. And that cycle only compounds the anxiety.

We all agree that this world can be a dangerous place, and we all periodically face frightening situations, some even life-threatening. Because we are able to think and reason, those moments remind us of the tenuous thread that keeps us tethered to this world. Yes, we are all mortal.

So as I sit here, 48 hours before a PET scan that determines if treatment has worked or not, I am arm –wrestling the fear. I have been in this place many times over the past four years, and the uncertainty is always unsettling. I can’t help but wonder what’s next, trying not to allow myself to speculate about the possible outcomes. There doesn’t seem to be effective distraction, although goodness knows I have searched for one. I wish I could say that this blog will offer tried-and-true solutions for being afraid, but I’ve learned that there is no way to outrun the worry, no magic coping mechanism. Jelly donuts or a glass of wine won’t do it, nor will positive thinking or meditation. The unknown always seems large and ominous, the waiting for the results, excruciating. And so, the uneasiness is there, settling in where it has decided it is going to remain for a while. Yes, having the ability to reflect and analyze is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to situations like this.

As I write this, I am reminded of all of the military words associated with cancer. We “fight” and are at “war” with the disease. Our team of physicians say they will use “every weapon in their arsenal” to “combat” the growth of abnormal cells as they send “orders” to the hospital for tests and treatment. And certainly, the worse possible outcome is described as “losing the battle.” We are labeled as “warriors” and when we endure the worst with a smile, called “troopers.” Interesting, isn’t it? Soldiers are trained to be brave in the face of threatening hostilities, going into the fray without consideration of the danger. I guess cancer patients are, too, because they are left with no choice if they hope to reach a place of “peace,” when the disease “retreats,” even if only for a moment.

I try not to think of this high-stakes test, the one which determines my fate and outlines my future. And while I have been in this place many time before, I take comfort in knowing that I have a Divine General, one who has a mighty big shield of protection. Whisper my name when you speak to Him, will you?

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