Facing your fears

Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.  _James Baldwin

Your cancer experience is unique. It cannot be compared with anyone else’s. Research shows that those who seek support, individually or within groups, cope better. However! How you coped with crises in the past will determine how you react to, and cope with, cancer. Adopting a proactive style will provide a sense of control and enable you to take responsibility for what happens.

Fear about what lies ahead is normal and to be expected. It raises questions about your life expectancy. How will the illness impact on your career? How will you manage your responsibilities as a wife, husband, parent, child, employee?

The more you know the less you fear.

Fear is difficult to deal with.

It is natural to be afraid of the unknown. By allowing yourself to be fearful and sharing it with someone, your fears become more manageable.

What are the most common fears?

Fear of being abandoned. Loved ones may stay away due to their fears and overwhelming emotions. Many are convinced that they may lose you. So they withdraw to protect themselves. This can result in you feeling isolated and lead to depression.

Fear of disfigurement, such as a mastectomy and / or loss of hair. You may no longer feel complete resulting in loss of self-esteem and confidence. This can lead to depression. Disfigurement is difficult to face. It takes time and effort to come to terms with your new body.

Fear of pain. Many types of cancer, including most breast cancers, do not cause pain. Should pain occur it is usually managed very effectively. Knowledge and information about the pain that your cancer and side effects may cause will alleviate this fear. Talk to your medical team.

Fear of death. Even if your prognosis is good, death will now be more real than it ever was before. Coming face to face with your mortality can be frightening. A spiritual belief will assist you at this time. Even if you are not religious – gladly accept the prayers and good wishes of others.

The fear of losing your independence and having to rely on others is quite normal. It is as if the cancer is in control of your body and the doctor is in control of your treatment. You feel that you are losing control of your life. Loss of financial independence is also a common fear. Dependency on your medical team is acceptable up to a point, but empower yourself to be involved in your treatment options and decision-making. Stand up for your needs.

Not Coping?

If you feel that you are not coping, reach out for assistance and support. Face your fears by talking with loved ones or a counsellor. Support groups also help allay your fears; speaking with people who have been-there-done-that is especially beneficial.

Facing up to your fears, admitting them, discussing them, lessens the hold that fear has on you.

Your feelings are not right or wrong. They are true to you. They need to be expressed in a constructive manner.

Please seek medical help if any of the following symptoms continue for longer than six to eight weeks:
  • You lose interest in things that used to give you pleasure
  • You sleep too much or too little
  • You lose your appetite
  • You feel constantly tired
  • You lose the ability to think clearly or concentrate
  • You feel guilty or worthless
  • You feel depressed

Written by Heather Pansegrouw