Entering that cold room doesn’t get any better. I don’t know what it is about the combination of the low temperature, that intimidating white-tunneled machine, and the loneliness left in the space after the technician walks over to the control room. I lie there on the table alone with my thoughts looking at the white ceiling. The strong alcohol scent in the air and the overpowering chlorine odor coming from the rough blanket that covers my body, remind me that I am at a health-care facility. I can hear the noise of the chair when she sits down behind closed doors, and then through a raspy speaker, instructs me to breathe or hold my breath and not move. Finally, the rings of the tunnel start moving loudly to somehow make cross-sectional images of my body. I could swear the rings have sharp teeth and everything. Slowly, my body moves inside the monster’s mouth and all I can do is inhale, hold, exhale, and not move.
Thankfully, it’s not a long test anymore, at least much shorter than it used to be in the late 1980’s. However, during that time, I am fully aware that I am completely naked from the inside out, and that someone inside the control room knows something about me that I’m anxious to find out.
It usually takes a few days before chatting with the doctor. It might really be hours, but it feels like time elongates because there is that something that I want to know so badly. I just want to hear the doc say that everything continues to be fine. I want to hear him say that all is okay and that I can continue doing what I’m doing because everything looks great.
Deep inside I know that behind that craving for validation after any check-up is the sneaky footprint of fear. After almost 30 years of remission, the vague memory of the experience is enough to never, ever, take my health for granted. In a way, fear – my greatest enemy, has become my life master.
Fear has fueled my journey to find love within and learn techniques to help me cope with those moments of uncertainty. Top on the list is faith and prayer, closely followed by disciplined meditation and my yoga practice. Every 5 years or so, when I walk inside the CAT Scan monster room, I recite my life mantra or prayer, and I start to meditate. Fear has showed me a path towards learning how to quiet my mind and count my blessings, even throughout any uncomfortable test.
In speaking with other survivors, I’ll sometimes hear different opinions about being afraid. Some say that they will die of something anyways and that there is no point of feeling that way. Others dismiss the emotion altogether saying that they are not concerned about kicking the bucket. Then we have some people who fear being afraid. It’s as if being vulnerable makes you a lesser human in this ever-so competitive world. God forbid we fear an illness! But I get it, we all react differently towards those things we cannot control. And even if we do regulate some elements of our wellbeing through healthy lifestyles choices, there are some types circumstances that can catch us by surprise and cause massive disruption in our lives. It all seems to be so unpredictable.
In my case, that dread gave me ammunition to research and get coached on the multiple ways I could train myself to be more present. As a side benefit, I feel more tranquil when I walk into the doctor’s office. During my journey, I not only learned techniques to quiet my thoughts and be more relaxed, but I also learned about foods that make me feel more connected with my spirituality and with my body. Although foods is a topic for another post, and yes, in spite of all my efforts “I’ll eventually die too”, the bottom line is that I feel great and life is meant to feel good.
The point is that on the other side of fear is an amazing healing Love waiting for us to take that leap. Cancer can be scary – I know. Anything unknown can be frightening, especially if we have loved ones whom we don’t want to be left suffering our death. Yet far from ignoring that one emotion, connecting with it and facing it with all my strength has made all the difference in my own life. I’m in love with my fear … it makes me feel alive!
I know we all have different perspectives on this topic, and I’d love to hear yours! If you are open to it, please also share any techniques that work for you. We can all learn from one another how to tame our internal monsters – however large they might be.
Thank you for taking the time to read my lines!
Written by M. Patricia Diaz