The Fear Of The Unknown

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Chemo - Done, Surgery - Done, Reconstruction - Done, Radiation - Done...


Why am I not feeling relief? I beat it. I am a survivor. But that little voice, I know you know the one. It feels every little twitch and twinge of pain, continues looking for swelling and signs of lymphodema, and takes up a lot of space in both the mind and the body creating a range of mixed emotions.

The shower... It's where I felt the lump in my breast for the very first time. I wasn't checking and to be honest, was not regular at doing self-exams. The shower now is where I see scars, where I watched my hair wash away, where I cried, and now where I am reminded every day about the fear of my cancer returning.

Recently two of my breasties confided in me about feelings and fears they were experiencing. Both recent survivors and feeling alone with these thoughts. Wondering should they call the doctor again, are they thinking too much into it and what if this and what if that? I completely related and opened up about my fears of re-occurrence and the other cancers I am at higher risk for with the BRCA2 gene. I can't imagine one woman who has experienced cancer not living with some level of fear about her future life every single day.

Time heals and I do truly believe this. However, it doesn't mean experiences are forgotten or that we turn a blind eye and cross our fingers. There are many books, groups, online ads, youtube videos that connect cancer and re-occurrences to many things within our control, i.e. sugar, diet, stress, meds, work, etc. AND at the very same time, you can find just as many supporting articles that there is nothing in our control about being diagnosed and many healthy young people are diagnosed each and every day.

I often experience fear and relief all at the same time and it is quite uncomfortable. There are many triggers such as anniversary dates, upcoming appointments or scans, new symptoms, or family and friends being diagnosed. Recent research tells us that younger survivors with more treatment side effects also worry more about their cancer coming back.

How do we move forward and cope with this fear and vulnerability?

A journal entry was written about 6 months ago, raw and real;

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February 20, 2020 - My Head Space Today

I feel and think I am doing really well, I do wonder how much I push away vs deal with?

I am always trying, but I also cannot ignore that I am scared that my cancer will come back. That all my fighting and hard times will be worth nothing.


I can't ignore that my chance of re-occurrence is higher, that I may not be as lucky next time.

I can't ignore that if this had killed me, it would have been easier on my mind and body. I don't wish my kids not to have a mother, but I am scared that one day I won't be dancing in the kitchen with them and who will or won't in my place.

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This is the "real" story behind a face that is confident, an employee who works hard, a friend who hosts dinner parties, a wife who will be celebrating her 14-year marriage, a mom who lives for her kids, a sister, a daughter, a human with all the feels all the time.

Someday's my feelings paralyze me and I know that those days I need to rest my mind and body. Other days I busy myself in tasks and chores. Other ways I conquer fear are journalling, yoga, meditation, and walking. A headache is probably just a headache, but after a cancer diagnosis, a headache can cause anxiety of the unknown. I encourage anyone struggling with this that if these thoughts persist and affect your well-being and ability to cope its time to reach out and get help. Ask for help if you are having trouble not sleeping, not eating, or not doing the things you once enjoyed.

Who can you ask for help; Family Doctor, Counsellor, Peer Support, Friends and/or Family.

Check-in on yourself. Ask yourself how are you feeling emotionally? If your thoughts wander what is it you think about? Who can you connect with today?

Continue talking about it, never suffer alone. The greatest comfort I have discovered is a gentle "I get it" from a previvor, survivor, or thriver. We are all stronger together.

I have questions I try and answer regularly when feeling the feels - Dear Fear, what do I need to feel safe? I try and not ignore my fear but look at what I need at that moment to feel safe.

You control your mind, it is not the other way around. Be real with yourself, no one holds the magic eight ball of what our futures look like.


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