What does it mean to live with fear on a daily basis? How does one live always waiting for the other shoe to drop? I remember being young and facing what I perceived to be terrifying issues. I used to writhe in them, wondering how to be in the world around me. I felt helpless and unknowing of the world. What was it to belong and fit in? How to be a part of…Was my hair okay? Was I wearing the right brand jeans? Did I weigh the same as everyone else, did I fit the mold? Looking back at it all now, it seems so lovingly sweet, so delicate and fragile.
Through all these moments of anxiety about finding my place in the world, never did I imagine not being here. Negotiating life was a challenge; excruciating I could say at times, but I had life and never perceived that I wouldn’t unless I decided it wasn’t what I wanted.
Now as a woman who has had cancer twice, I live daily with the challenge of accepting that fear will probably be a part of my daily life for however long I am here. So I understand fear. She and I are the very closest of friends and enemies. In the darkest days of my illness, the fear was so great that I used to want to climb onto my balcony, sprout wings and just fly. Fly and never stop so I could somehow leave the cancer behind me. Nights lying awake, holding my own hand as comfort in the despairing fear. I know fear.
So what is this piece all about? Well, I guess it is about living a life with fear, but not in suffering caused by fear. I imagine there are many people in the world who live with enormous fear every day. There is no way around it. If we are to go on living, fear will inevitably be part of our life experience. However, for me, what I now know is I can be fearful every day that cancer may one day claim me, but until then I have a choice. I have power here. I decide how the life I have will be through what I choose each day. I can choose to meet each day with acceptance, mindfulness and being in the present moment. That’s my choice. That’s what I have decided and fear herself will undoubtedly come along for the ride.
Tomorrow I look forward to a day in the sun having a cup of coffee with a friend. Who knows if that will eventuate? But right now, I get to feel what that will be like; how the sun will feel on my skin; how the warm sweet coffee will taste; and how my friend will smile when she sees me. As I write these words, I’m smiling. My eyes are welling up with pure joy that even if I never have that cup of coffee, I have just experienced the joy of it this moment.
So what this piece is all about is every moment we have a choice. What comes from without I have no say over, but what comes from within…is all mine. Viktor Frankl said it best:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing;
the last of human freedoms; to choose one’s attitude
in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.