4 Reminders For Anyone Dealing With The Fear of Recurrence
Every cancer survivor knows how unkind recurrence scares can be- If you ever experience this fear of recurrence, keep this piece of advice in mind.
The thorn in the side of every single cancer survivor out there, is that we never really know if our cancers have truly been cured or not. The best status we ever get from our doctors is "NED", no evidence of disease, but this doesn't mean that no disease is present, it simply means that none can be detected. The passage of time without any new evidence of disease is the only way that we ever get to "cured", and that makes for a very challenging waiting game in our years after cancer. Nothing has been more terrifying to me during these years than the fears of recurrence, and every strange pain or irregularity in our bodies brings these fears to life.
Cancer casts a permanent dark cloud over our heads in that because we've had cancer once, we're statistically far more likely to have it again. And because we've been through toxic chemotherapy or radiation treatments in order to cure our cancers, we're at additional risk for secondary cancers just due to that alone. Even after we're deemed "cured", it's tough to avoid worrying about our cancers coming back, or even developing a second one.
These worries so overwhelmed me in my initial years after cancer that they broke me as a person, and I had to come up with a new philosophical approach to living my life.So I came up with tips to help me cope with the overwhelming fear of recurrence:
1. Realize that you are more than your body
We're all so much more than our bodies. Does it make you any less of a person because you had cancer and that it scarred you inside and out, disfigured you, caused you to gain weight, lose your hair, or have so many other body image issues? Certainly not! I learned to stop identifying with my body. Why wouldn't I, when it failed me in such a terrible way, and scared the hell out of me so many times afterwards? Our bodies are merely the vehicle through which we can live and travel in this lifetime. We're so much more than what we see in the mirror.
2. Accept that you have no control
Especially while in the midst of recurrence scares, my mind had been grappling for control of things. It just needed to know that my cancer was gone forever, and that I was going to be okay, but we can never really know such things. We have no real control, and I had to learn to let go and free my mind from the burden of trying to "know" that I was going to be okay now, next month, next year, and forever after that. The reality is that there have never been any guarantees for good health for anyone. It was a difficult pill to swallow, accepting that I could never really know what I wanted to know, but it was one that I had to swallow.
3. Never stop living and enjoying life
What more reason or motivation does one need in our uncertainty filled years after cancer, especially while dealing with fears of recurrences, than to get out and truly live your lives? What are you waiting for? Make plans, go somewhere that you've always wanted to go, or do something that you've always wanted to do. Live and enjoy life the very best you know how, and spend time with people that bring you joy and happiness, and can add to your life experience. Never let a weekend go to waste, and always have plans for something in the works. Staying engaged with life and living today, will help to keep your mind off of this darkness in the background. The best way to survive cancer is to LIVE!
4. Have faith
What makes the worries of cancer recurrence so frightening, is because we fear that we're going to die. It's death and dying that we're really afraid of. I'd struggled with my spiritual beliefs for years, which only made things harder. I didn't know exactly what I believed in, nor who or what we really are, and organized religions had only made things more complicated and conflicting for me. Finally firming up and going all in on an independent set of spiritual beliefs as far as who and what we really are, and where we go afterwards, helped to take the wind out of the sails of my fears of dying due to cancer. I live my life with purpose and confidence today, even with my history of cancer in the background, and take great comfort in having full faith in my spiritual beliefs.
Do you have any points to remember that help you during a recurrence scare? Share yours in the comments below.
Steve enjoys travel and fine dining, adventures with his family, running, writing, photography, and plenty of time with friends. Steve also blogs about cancer and the survivorship experience at his website, was the Co-Founder and Chair of the first ever Testicular Cancer Summit of 2017, and is a former Testicular Cancer non-profit director.