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July 04, 2005

Popping Cancer Reflection: On Confronting Your Fears

Unless you discover it really late in the game, cancer is mostly a grind. Week after week of brutal treatment, followed by long afternoons where you try to stay active, try to rest, try to heal.

Cancer comes down, for me, to an effort of the will. Either I want to live and am willing to put in the effort that it takes mentally, physically and spiritually to do so, or I'm ready to die.

One of the hardest parts of the spiritual fight with cancer is naming my fears. Of course I can say "I'm scared to die," but that doesn't really tell me anything. I don't know what that means.

So what am I scared of?

Well, I'm scared that I'll live the rest of my life feeling weak and going through horrible chemotherapy treatments and never have another day where I feel GOOD before I die.

I'm scared that I will leave this earth without ever having made a difference.

I'm scared that bad things will happen to my family after I'm dead, and I won't be there to help.

Of course, there are probably lots of other things I'm scared of, too, but that's a good enough start. See, when you can name your fears, you can begin the work it takes to heal them, or overcome them. I found out that I'm not scared of death itself. I think I'm absolutely prepared for whatever comes.

I hate to bring in a cheesy example here, but I remember when Luke Skywalker had to go in that scary tree in The Empire Strikes Back at Yoda's command. The darkness showed him his greatest fear and forced him to begin confronting it.

By taking time to search out my own dark places in this battle with cancer, I can name my fears and begin to confront them. This is what it means to beat cancer, whether you live or die.

As always, somebody else said it better than I can. In The Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living, Joseph Campbell is quoted as saying:

It is only by going down into the abyss
that we recover the treasures of life.
Where you stumble,
there lies your treasure.
The very cave you are afraid to enter
turns out to be the source of
what you were looking for.

Campbell also shared:

A bit of advice
given to a young Native American
at the time of his initiation:
"As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.
Jump.
It is not as wide as you think."

Posted by Dan at July 4, 2005 07:25 PM

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Comments

You have already made a difference in many lives, especially mine. But that doesn't mean you should die, or anything.

Posted by: Mrs. Popping Culture at July 5, 2005 12:29 AM

I'm just saying.

Posted by: Ara at July 5, 2005 04:35 PM

Hey:
I think this make a difference thing has jumped the shark a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. My personal creed that I try to instill in my students while teaching has two parts. It is as follows.
1. First, do no harm. I tell my students that I never want to do anything thing that will turn them off to life, school, class, or work.
2. Second, is put yourself in a position to win. This does not mean a student can win everytime in everything. The example I tell them is say you break up with your girlfriend the night before a major test. The guy has not studied at all for the test. Instead of throwing his hands up and saying I'M GOING TO FAIL IT ANYWAY and takes a 15 out of 100 points and gets an F. He studies hard for the second test and gets a 95. 110 divided by 2 is a 55 and a big fat F for the grading period.
Using the Mr. C philosophy, take that same situation and have the student look over the notes on the bus, in the cafeteria, or in a study block and the student walks out with a 65 on the test and a really good F. Do the math and for the grading period the student has a 80 C for the grading period.
My take on Big D is as follows.
1. You have not caused harm to your self or others. In fact, you have caused and shared a great amount of good. Other than managing to keep ending up with a cancer every few years that threatens your life, you have not done any harm to yourself.
2. I think your have put yourself in a position to win in this battle against the grind of cancer. Good doctors, the love of good friends and family, and a body of believers all praying and pulling for you is an excellent formula in my book. Granted, I wish you were closer to "home" for many reasons I have shared with you in the past. However, you have done well to put yourself in a position to win.
As for your fears regarding your family, trust that your extended family and friends will be there to help. Fears lots of times come down to not trusting yourself and others around you. Give us a shot. We will do our best. I think your "network of love" will get the job done!
When you are able, pick up the phone and take or dail out for a phone call. There are folks outside of Ohio that would love to hear your voice.
Chow for now!

Posted by: Jim at July 5, 2005 05:03 PM

Well, my goal in posting that was not to say "hey, I'm scared.. let's all listen to the ways I'm freaking out."

It was more along the lines of pointing out, pastorally even, that we are often trapped by fears we aren't aware of. Naming them is an important step.

I do appreciate all the thoughts and concerns posted here and in email!

Posted by: Dan at July 5, 2005 09:22 PM

Dan, We all can hope that we make a difference each and every day of our lives. Your frankness as you walk through your time of trial is, for me, an insight into what others may be feeling in their times of trouble, which in the long run should make me a better Pastor. I, too, want to be what you hope to be ... a comfort and blessing to those who are hurting. You are helping me to do that. I am probably learning more through you than I will ever learn at CRCDS. You also enable me to focus my daily prayers for you to your "need of the moment". God bless.

Posted by: Pam Klotzbach at July 7, 2005 06:51 AM

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