Hurricane Cancer

I am a bit of a scaredy cat. I get spooked really easily (i.e. Phil Collins’ Land of Confusion, which could be blamed for ruining my entire childhood). Mix this with anxiety and you have a cute little cocktail of I cannot even think about that or I’ll never sleep again. 

Here is a short list of things that I have spent a significant amount of time being scared of at some point in my life:

  • Phil Collins
  • Childbirth
  • Heights (jumping from them)
  • Horror movies/haunted houses
  • Chemotherapy
  • Flying (why does that giant metal tube float?!)
  • Deep water

As any good neurotic would, I spend a great deal of time worrying about all of the above, even when there is zero basis or real reason to do so. There shouldn’t be a situation where I am forced into heights, scary movies or deep water. I can make the decision to stay away from those things.

In my twenties I had two medical phobias as listed above, childbirth and chemotherapy. I probably spent weeks of my life envisioning what it would be like to go through either of those situations and being stone cold positive I couldn’t endure them.

The childbirth phobia has become very ironic as I have given birth 3 times (once completely unmedicated thankyouverymuch) and am a birth doula and childbirth educator by trade.

In other ironic news, I have now also endured chemotherapy, making me 2/2 of ‘conquering’ my major medical fears, though not always by choice (keep the babies, leave the cancer).

I have such clear memories of how I thought birth was ludicrously unrealistic, in terms of physical pain and endurance and similar thoughts on chemo. Those two circumstances seemed unfathomable for me and my body. I could never be the person in that sad chemo chair. Nope.


Even surgery never scared me. That made sense to me. There is an internal problem, you anesthetize the area or person, cut in, fix it, and sew it back up. There is something so logical about that that fear can’t creep in around the edges. Poison seeping into your veins in the form of a clear liquid that could easily be mistaken for H2O? All kinds of wrong, thus inducing major fear.

So where am I going with this?

The vortex. The eye of the storm.

Fear is so much more palpable just on the edge of the actual source. As we circle the drain worrying how we would ever humanly endure chemo, all we are doing is drumming up dust that fogs us into a deeper, less realistic panic.

Then you are forced to step inside the hurricane.  You need chemo.  Somehow at this moment, everything shifts. You are actually freed of the concern. You are liberated from what it might be like and just have to live through it.

Let me be the first to tell you that this is a confusing sensation. The thing you have spent years of your life dreading, is actually happening to you, but you are calm in the face of the storm. You are already in it, without much choice. The present is right now and you are walking through to the other side of the fear. It’s already happening. 

Being inside of the eye of the storm, which in my case is chemotherapy, was so much less scary than the windy, confusing, unorganized periphery. In the eye, there is stillness.  There is only the present and each moment isn’t so  bad if you just breathe and remind yourself that you just live through that minute, week, month.

Speculation promotes fear. Wind promotes a storm. The hardest part is slipping from the edge, down the hole because once you are there, you have already conquered your main fear, the unknown.


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