Today I was paralyzed by fear.
I started my cancer journey, happy, upbeat, positive, optimistic and hopeful. It was an instant choice upon hearing my diagnosis. I wanted (and want) to stay in that place.
I knew (and know) that it’s not possible or human do to so. We were born with a wide range of emotions and feelings. We are meant to feel them all to the fullest.
The trick is not getting stuck in any one feeling or state of being for very long, but to deeply feel the feelings, acknowledge them … even invite them in and say “hello” but then to quickly say “goodbye, come back another day!”
And then move on, to the happy state.
Today was different. I wasn’t optimistic. I didn’t move. My emotions didn’t move and shift and change.
I got paralyzed and stuck in fear and anxiety. I let myself go there, no matter how uncomfortable. Running away from it won’t help me heal or feel better now, or in time. It’s been an uncomfortable and lonely and sad day.
In two days (on the 15th of May) I will get the results of my lumpectomy and sentinel (lymph) node biopsy. I got scared. Really scared. I didn’t think I would be this afraid.
I’ve read too much and consulted too much with Dr. Google, and scared myself. I don’t recommend it!
That’s why for the most part, this blog will remain a happy place, an inspiring place. Posting things online that scare other people with breast cancer doesn’t help anyone, I don’t think. Success stories and hope, help. I prefer to live in a place of offering hope and inspiration.
I trained as a professional music therapist. I worked also as a counsellor, child care worker and family advancement worker. I worked with people on the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. I did hospital practicums and later worked in the areas of psychiatry, palliative care, grief recovery, sexual abuse intervention, alcohol and drug (in hospital) counselling. I worked with Alzheimer’s care and battered women and in suicide intervention, with the physically and mentally challenged. I helped people with mental health struggles get back into the workforce.
I saw the most deeply painful and traumatic times in the lives of others. And … I loved it, the work of it all. I was honoured to be witnessing such incredible courage, transformations (and setbacks) in the lives of others.
Looking back, I was blessed to be chosen to be with those people, at that exact point of time, on their life path. I made a difference. I know I did. I saved lives when nobody else cared or just walked by the broken lives of people living on the streets. I am proud and I am grateful.
In dealing with the most intense of emotions within myself and in others, on a daily basis, it made me a better person, a more compassionate and kind person. A more loving and courageous person with a focus on the right thing. Love.
If there was a case or a population (that’s what they called it back then) of humans that other colleagues didn’t want to work with, I did. I wanted to. If somebody was a challenge to work with, I wanted to face it head on and help them.
But today, it was me who was afraid. Who was there? Nobody.
I stayed home alone, thinking about breast cancer. I didn’t have to. There are loads of people out there who care about me and who love me. There are loving people who would have come over to my house and spent time with me.
Also, I’ve got hundreds of humans online on multiple social networks cheering me on, on this brand new journey with breast cancer. They want me to live. They lift me up. They tell me they love me. Strangers have given me their phone numbers. It’s been an incredible journey filled with gifts so far.
But today, nobody there. Just me and my uncomfortable feelings, stuck in fear and in anxiety. I could not pick up the phone.
Cancer is written about on the internet, as stages and grades and prognosis. My last biopsy was a grade 3. That’s not good. The surgeon described it as “the cells are nasty” and that “because you are so young we will be treating this very aggressively.”
I don’t even know what stage of cancer I have yet. Today I scared myself enough without knowing.
Despite grades and stages and poor prognosis, thousands of people win and triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds, to beat this potentially deadly disease of cancer. I actually questioned if I could do it today. Win. Could I do it? Yeah, those thoughts entered my mind.
I had to fight with my mind today. It was a battle to get into the positive state I’d found previously. “Pick up the phone,” I said to myself. “Call someone, Brenda. Get off of the internet, get off of social networks and connect in person with a real human being, you know, face to face,” I said. I just couldn’t do it.
I accepted it, let it go, took the pressure off of myself to call others, and relaxed into the pain of this all. I faced it.
Today was rough, hard, and lonely.
I can’t let myself have too many of these days. I know that the power of people and love surrounding me will get me though this beast of cancer. I know I cannot do this alone.
Today I wished that people would call me, instead of saying, “call me if you need something.” I couldn’t call.
“Why aren’t they reaching in?” I thought. I would.
“They are not you, Brenda.” People are busy, they make assumptions.
I’ve been upbeat and positive, so they must think I am strong and that I am brave. I “look good” and I “look healthy” people say. Looks aren’t everything. I think. It’s an asset, and in this case, a detriment.
Today I wanted to delete almost every email that came in, and did not want to respond. I did that a lot. “Pick up the phone people,” I thought. “Why are you emailing me?”
Today, bravery did not visit. Fear consumed me.
But tomorrow is a new day, and I begin again. I can start fresh.
I can have a great day tomorrow, if I choose. I’m making plans for what I will do tomorrow. Who will I call? Where will I go to get out and about, out of the house, and out of the confines of my own mind, until the 15th.
To the prisons of my brain: I will not visit you tomorrow. Visiting hours are over and I’ve got things to do, people to see, phone calls to make, and an incredible life to live.
I will see you again, fear, I know I will. But you will not take over my life and waste my precious days anymore.
That was my day. Thanks for listening. I feel better now.
My standard poodle pup, Teddy, is calling me to go downstairs. He’s got his priorities straight.
“Come on, let’s go outside and play ball!”
With love and gratitude for this beautiful planet filled with beautiful people and so much to be thankful for, may I meet you one day in person, kind souls.
— Brenda Johima
P.S. Cancer, you can F%#* Off.