It’s been impossible for me to separate a cancer diagnosis from fear. Between moving from coast to coast (and then back again), appointments, surgery, risks, and medications- how could I not get scared? These were my three main fears that I revisited time and time again throughout my experience:
The Fear of Not Photographing, Again
My entire life that I built for myself until this point was to be a photographer. How could I do that if I didn’t have an eye? Or this somehow caused it? What if my doctors suggest another career? What else can I do? I am meant to be a photographer. The idea of doing anything else terrified me.
The Fear of What If’s
Let’s talk about googling a diagnosis: don’t do it! In my case, I found myself extremely anxious after googling about my condition – so little is known about ocular melanoma. After reading an article or WebMD, the words “death” and “survival rate” would stand out to me. I chose to rely on the experts to help guide me through my medical decisions.
There were so many questions about my past and my life in general that made me wonder if I did anything to cause my diagnosis. Was it something I did growing up? Does food cause cancer? Would this still have happened if I grew up in a different neighborhood? What if 26 years is all I get to have on this earth?
The Fear of How Long
I didn’t have health insurance at the time, and the medical bills continued to come. I was depending on the generosity of family and friends, but I had these moments of crippling fear. How long will this go on for? Then there were the scarier questions: is this too much for my family? Is this too much for my boyfriend? What if everyone leaves? Am I strong enough to even do this alone?
There were four things that I did to help combat my fears:
One Step at a Time
I may not have been able to run a marathon if I knew that it was fifty miles, but I know how to put one foot in front of the other. This entire process is one step at a time; I can handle each step. Maybe not the stress of tomorrow, or the stress of the month, or the big ‘what if’ questions of life, but I could do today. I could do “right now”. And I chose to.
I have Support
In the previous blog post, I wrote about my support system. And moreso, I could find people experiencing the same diagnosis on Facebook. Support groups did so much for me. I found people who understood the fears and could help me know what to expect.
Doctors are Experts
I really had to rely on doctors to be the expert with my body. I trusted them to direct me to the right people, and when I found the right doctors, I trusted them to help give me the facts. If they said I was recovering, I held onto that. If they said that I was making progress, I believed them. I learned to trust their expertise; my life and mental well being depended on it.
Fear is a natural response to a cancer diagnosis. I hope that by sharing my fears and how I chose to combat them, I may help someone else experiencing something similar. I would love to build a community to support others since that was critical for me.
We are hosting an event with Cyclebar Carmel where you can buy a seat and get a workout! All donations go to OMF cancer research. Sign up here!
You can read about my diagnosis and experience here.