Cancer is full of fear. It starts before diagnoses. Just the possibility of having cancer is scary. And once you are diagnosed with the disease, fear becomes a part of you. Fear inhabits your daily life. It ebbs and flows with treatment, what your read on the internet, how people around you act, what your doctors are telling you, and how you physically feel.
Fear comes from the unknown. Will I die? When will I die? How long do I have? Is this treatment working? Am I doing all that I can or should be doing to fight death?
Truth is, we can all ask those questions – with or without cancer – and no one knows the answers! No one on this earth knows what will happen tomorrow.
I think about fear. I have been thinking about it a lot recently. What is fear? Why am I afraid? I am afraid of death, but what does that mean? Why?
I talked to my 96 year old grandfather recently, thinking that he must surely contemplate these thoughts. He explained to me that no one here is privileged enough to know what lies on the other side but that he is sure there is nothing to fear – death will not be painful.
I’m not worried about the pain of death. Physical pain doesn’t scare me. I used to cry a lot thinking of those I would leave behind and their sorrow. My mom, my dad, my sisters. All of my friends and family. But, that has passed. I know that they would all be just fine.
So what about ME? Why would I be scared?? It’s not the fear of pain. Not the fear of hurting others. My 96 year old grandfather doesn’t seem worried about a thing. Then again, he has lived a pretty complete life. I am only 35. Generations ago living past 35 was considered a very full life. Maybe I need to rest my hat on that and let the fear go. Well, that is kind of my answer. My grandfather has well outlived expectations, but at 35, I am much too young to die based on current average lifespans. Leaving this young would not be considered a “full” life. And that’s it – I am scared that I have not lived a full life. That I am not living a full life. I have not done all that I want to do. That is where my fear comes from.
A number of years ago I went to Burning Man, a very “unconventional gathering” of 50,000+ people held in the Nevada desert every summer. Before heading to the dessert, a Burning Man veteran that I met while shopping for supplies in Reno said this to me, upon learning that is was my first time to the “playa” – “Experience everything! If you want to climb something, climb it! If you want to talk to someone approach them. If you want to ride on something go ride it! Experience as much as you can!”
In the Burning Man of life I have not yet experienced enough. I have not tasted all that I want to taste and explored all that I want to explore. That is what makes me afraid.
My fear is with me daily, but not too often in a teary way, more as a reminder to live the life I’ve always wanted RIGHT NOW. I want to live a life of significance, of exploration, of experience, of love. I have refocused the value of my days. I want all the experiences that life has to offer! If I am outside, enjoying family and friends, creating something, doing something new, exploring a new place, climbing what I want to climb, smiling at strangers like I never have, striking up random conversation, doing my best to make the world a better place, eating well, exercising, waking up earlier, getting stronger, hugging more, saying I LOVE YOU – then I am unafraid. I am alive! I am living the way that I should be. The fear has shown me the value of each day and the joy and happiness it can provide. Fear is natural – especially under my circumstances – but there is a lot to be learned from it. Our time is short. What would you do today if it was your last? If you had one month left? Six months? Six years?
DO MORE. EXPERIENCE MORE. We all only get one shot at this life – enjoy it!
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Hellen Keller
“You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough” – Mae West
“In the end its not the years in your life, but the life in your years” – Lincoln