My Greatest Fear

This is the fifth installment of the Fear of Recurrence series, written by Carla Doyle:

PINK!! Five years ago, the color rarely found in my wardrobe or home, now defines me. It’s on my license plate, in my closet (a lot!), on my flip flops, rings, candles, paper towels. That unmistakable pink ribbon. Why? Mostly because it reminds me of my journey. And it gives me strength by reminding me I am one of the lucky ones…a survivor!

July 2004 began a new chapter in my life. One filled with sadness, fear, joy, and mostly gratitude. I mistakenly thought the journey would be complete once the surgery, chemo, radiation were over. It truly had just begun. Returning to a new “normal” meant dealing with the ups and downs of emotions. No longer consumed by physical battles, meant more time to think. Which of course led to the ultimate unanswerable question…would my cancer come back?

Some days I reveled in the joy of just being alive. Some days I wallowed in the fear of being blind sided again. There was no rhyme or reason to when either feeling would seem to emerge from nowhere. A rainy, dreary day could be a good day. A bright, sunny day could be the opposite. And often, it was moment to moment.

I have learned to trust in myself, my doctors, my husband, my family, my friends. We made it through once. If necessary, we would do it again. I used to think a cancer diagnosis was my biggest fear. Now I realize, my greatest fear is having cancer and NOT knowing it. Staying informed helps. Not allowing the world of cancer to consume my life helps too. There’s a fine line for me between the two.

So for now, I mindfully focus on what life brings…the good and the bad. If I don’t allow myself to mourn the loss of a loved one or embrace the birth of a granddaughter, then I’ve let cancer beat me. If I don’t laugh with friends, take walks with my husband, enjoy life’s big events and small moments then I’ve allowed fear to consume me. The fear of recurrence will always be present. It can’t be ignored. It must be faced and dealt with.

Being a survivor is a privilege. I honor that in my own way…by offering support to newly diagnosed women, keeping myself physically and emotionally healthy, and collecting all those pink ribbons to help me remember.

Do you share Carla’s emotions? We want to hear from all of you, either here on this blog or on our Facebook Page.

7 thoughts on “My Greatest Fear

  1. Hi Carla
    Thank you so much for sharing your story… it rang loud bells with me also.
    It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in our tears AFTER the sugery and treatment is over… I have wondered so many times if it’s normal to cry afterwards!
    Thank you… I shall ‘share’ your story with my Facebook BC and phyllodes friends.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Anna. I think knowing we’re not alone is one of the most important things we need to remember. There are days it would be so easy to stay isolated, but getting outside of those troublesome thoughts swimming around in my head is so much healthier. I remember emailing one of my support team (a woman diagnosed a few years before me), asking her if I was completely crazy feeling so emotional a whole year later. She reassured me it was perfectly normal. Now I think it is not olny normal, but necessary. Processing all those feelings is part of the healing.
      Do I still feel like crying sometimes? You bet! But better to go through those feelings instead of going “around” them.
      Take good care of yourself.

  2. Hi Carla, thanks for sharing your story. I especially love what you said about not letting the cancer consume you. That is so true. It so easy to let the cancer take control. I am almost at the one year mark and and fighting hard to take back my life. Like you said sometimes it’s a minute by minute thing.

    It so nice to know we’re not alone. Your so right when you said “being a survivor is a privilege”. I honor that by reaching out to others, letting my family know I’m OK, fighting for better health, and I too, collect all those pink ribbons.


    • Hi Alice,
      Congratulations on approaching that one year anniversary!! I remember that being so emotional. We actually had a “pink party”. We served all the pink food and drink we could come up with and of course decorated in pink balloons, flowers, etc. I wanted to do something to thank all the people who had supported me. I was so touched by how many people came and let me give back to them for a few hours. We had a great time! It’s great to do positive things like that.
      Where you are now, it’s likely that cancer is a part of every day in some way. Believe it or not, eventually you might actually go a day or two and not even think of it. It’s never far from my thoughts, but now it isn’t my first thought each morning and last thought each night. Well, at least not every day. 🙂 But I refuse to ever let it leave me completely…that’s what helps me keep some perspective in my life.
      Take good care of yourself. And celebrate!!!!

  3. My feelings exactly. I am only 6 months post treatment. My kids are under 6 and there are days I just start crying wondering if I will see them grow up, get married, have kids etc.
    Other days I feel invincible and can take on the world. This Easter period has not been a good one, but I know I need to get out of my funk and get going again.
    One negative comment to me from a very well known celebrity had my questioning my drs…its taken a while to discount that and believe I am clear of Cancer.
    Thanks for this and I love the comments that others post too,I truly am not alone in this.

  4. Hi Lee, First of all, you are NEVER alone. I’m glad to see you’re reaching out. It helps so much to know others have faced this journey. It sure isn’t a club we would have chosen to join, but it’s one with amazing members!
    You are at a tough place…young children, just 6 months from treatment. But use these as your motivation. Your children may not fully understand all that is happening, but they will learn by your example. My children were young adults (17 and 21), but I know what you mean about the fear of being here for those milestones. Since diagnosis, I have seen our daughter get married, our son graduate from high school and go on to become a police officer, and the birth of two granddaughters! Those amazing moments made me realize why I chose to fight my way through surgery, chemo, radiation. You will have amazing moments too!!
    I remember negative comments throwing me into a tailspin. It’s hard to shake those, but allow them to be replaced by your own positive thoughts! It’s obvious you are an amazing, strong woman. Trust in yourself!
    Take good care of yourself.

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