Fear of recurrence

Life after cancer has been very different with each passing year.

The first couple of years were spent taking extra care of my diet, exercise and sleep the next two years have a little relaxed.

To my surprise, I didn’t have too much of ‘scanxity’ (anxiety during scans)in the first two years but since last year, I have been ridiculously scared about the scans. I am unable to understand the reasons for being so afraid.

I was also told by my doctor that with each passing year, the risk goes down. There is something odd and strange that adds to my fear. I have disease ‘no evidence of disease’ (NED) but I still worry too much. This fear is actually consuming me. This is the biggest challenge before me now.

I want to defuse the power fear that I have and learn to trust that life is taking care of me.

I have been thinking hard, how I can take control of the random thoughts that come into my mind and organize my emotions so that I can overcome my fears.

There are days when I remind myself that I am a survivor and if I can battle a life-threatening disease like cancer and still thrive, then I can very well overcome my uncertainties and fears.

I started reading books and finding various resources available online. Well,the progress has been slow but I’m working on it.

In the process, I started asking myself some questions:

How much power do we give to our fears?

When a fearful thought comes up, it is just trying to protect you.

The first step is to acknowledge that fear and do a little mirror work. This means that you talk to the fear and say: thank you, I know you are doing your best to protect me.

Allow that fearful thought to come and just let it go. Believe that they are just thoughts and have absolutely no control over my life.

I keep reminding myself that these thoughts and feelings are just a limitation of the mind and they have no power if I don’t insist on holding on to them.

I also tell myself that all is well and everything is working for my highest good.

The universe has my back and God is taking care of me.

I have been sincere in my efforts to take good care of my health so everything will be alright.

The major lurkers are fear, uncertainty and doubt.

These impostors live inside us and sometimes stop us from thinking in the right direction.

Over the last one year I have also found a trick to fight it back.

1) Separating the rational from the irrational:
When I’m struggling with my emotional enemies, I try to remember how brave I have been and all the accomplishments I have had in my journey so far and I try to comfort myself through some positive affirmations.

2) Fill your brain with positive thoughts:
Focussing on the positives that I have witnessed in my healing journey also helps to filter the negative thoughts that keep popping. I keep telling myself that life is what you make it and just like any other test of life, this too shall pass.

3) Allow the fear to move
When the emotion is too strong,I don’t let my mind carry me away with judgements and anxiety.I try to breathe-in and breathe-out and allow my mind to come back to the present moment.Sometimes this simple meditation made my mind the calm and I felt nourished.

4)Walking is another great way to let the fear or anxiety to go away.
When I walk, my mind is fully in the walking body and each time I put my foot on the ground I am bringing my r mind back to the present moment with the body. This helps the tension to be released slowly. Being a little mindful can help us embrace our fears and strong emotions.

Hopefully, in my next scan I would be successful in overcoming my fears and anxiety.

Prof. R.Srinivasa Murthy

Few other suggestions to address FEAR OF RECURRENCE, which is one of the most common emotional reactions among persons diagnosed with cancer.

5) Information is power.
A lot of ‘fear of recurrence’ comes from lack/limited information. Reading, learning from your medical team, others in a similar situation, will take away fear from ignorance.

6) Writing down thoughts and feelings/ sharing of feelings:
It is a well known method of addressing situations of stress. It is recognized that writing down your thoughts and feelings daily for twenty minutes can be as effective as seeking psychological support from professionals. Many in India, write down religious thoughts, slokas and mantras in hundreds and find relief.
It is equally beneficial to share feelings with your trusted family members/friends.
Both of these measures help to take the fear out of the mind and bring relief from tensing and peace of mind.

7) Spiritual support.
One of the common source of fighting fear and making sense of the uncertainties of life is to read /use the wisdom in the religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita, Koran, The Bible, Gurbani etc.
I recall one of the person who found solace in reading every day ‘SUNDARA KANDA ‘ of Ramayana. An another person found relief is reading with her spouse, the Bhagavatam.
Recently, former President Jimmy carrter has written an excellent book of meditations, titled,
Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President (2018).
You can read about using GITA in the item in the book titled: GITAWAY by and S.Chandra and Santosh Srivatsava. (SEE BOOKS SECTION)

8) Listening to Music
Listening to music is a good way to fight feelings of fear.
You can listen to music of your choice as it allows the brain/ mind to heal.
For those looking for a specific programme of music developed for healing, there is CREATIVE ARTS for PROCESSING EMOTIONS(CAPE) developed by psychiatrist Dr.Ramya Mohan. This is a my novel self-guided, music-based therapeutic technique. This is an 8 part music programme, focusing on breathing (Soham) and living in the present(Kshanam).

You can get full details at http://www.ramyamohan.com.
In conclusion, FEAR OF RECURRENCE is a companion of persons diagnosed with cancer. This can be mastered by FEELING THE FEAR and using some of the 8 measures described above.
Do share your thoughts and experiences, so that others can benefit.

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