Fear of an Enemy’s Return by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

I watched “Return to Amish” tonight.  For some it’s probably really sad to watch…most caring people don’t want to hear about somebody facing a potentially deadly disease.  Tonight the show shared more about Chapel’s (She’s the girlfriend of one of the ex-Amish on the show) cancer.  The last episode I watched they shared that her cancer had returned.  I sort of knew it was coming after seeing the ads throughout that week.  Tonight the show shared it was Stage 4 lung cancer.  So most people, if they have a loving heart, will feel sorrow for her, compassion, concern, sympathy.  It will hit them and probably stick around for a few minutes.  They may even mention it at the water cooler the next day at work.  But then they’ll move on to other matters in their own lives.

Not me.  Last week I sat here and teared up when she told Andy about the news.  Then the more they talked, the more I cried.  

Tonight, watching her try to plan a wedding…rushing to the chair before she blacked out and fell over while wedding dress shopping…it really hit home.  Hard. 

The timing is actually kind of strange.  If I was seriously superstitious, I would worry about whether or not these episodes were an omen of something bad around the corner.  My cancer was Stage 3 breast cancer, and I was diagnosed a little over three years ago, the month before my 40th birthday.  I treated for a full year starting with my surgery to put in my port (which happened to bring with it a C-diff infection that landed me in the hospital for a week over Easter weekend!) followed by chemotherapy for an entire summer, a double mastectomy, radiation from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and lastly ending with the last doses of Herceptin to kick off a new spring!  (There was also a hernia repair thrown in the mix.  I guess I didn’t have enough excitement that year!)  After a very long break from hospitals, I went back last August to finally have my reconstructive surgery, and I just found out recently that I’m going to need additional surgeries because of the effects of the radiation.  So when you combine those surgeries with the lifelong monitoring I’ll require, my future brings with it MANY reminders that the threat of cancer is always looming.  

I’ve had a number of concerns myself about my own cancer returning.  I wasn’t surprised by that at all.  I think I actually started worrying about recurrence before I even was in remission!  (If that’s possible!)  But I think things got really stressful for me when I lost my father to cancer.  The two-year anniversary of his death is this coming September, and I feel like my grieving is worsening instead of getting better with time.  The same goes for my fear of recurrence…the further out I get from entering remission the stronger my fears of a new cancer get.  I can’t explain why.  I certainly don’t want to be this way.  I can’t figure out what’s causing it, and I can’t figure out how to make it any easier to deal with.  So for now, I’m just trying to focus on other concerns…I’ve made this summer the season when I try to deal with the other health hand I’ve been dealt…I’m trying this summer to rewrite my life with fibromyalgia.

So far my summer has revolved around ONE activity…housework!  My oldest finished Kindergarten then tackled her recital weekend, and after that was all over, this mama did her best to kick it into high gear…and I’m STILL pushing myself any moment I can to catch up on everything that fell behind during my extremely difficult winter.  All the years of growing up, I took after my aunt…when I’m upset about something, I move.  The moving around turned into somebody who needed to find something to straighten up.  Fibromyalgia may make that charasteristic difficult, but it can’t take it away from me completely.  There are days I can barely move and others I can’t move at all.  But I’m trying.  So maybe all that stress-induced “energy” and the activity it’s creating will do something to ease the stress all this cancer talk is amping up?  All I can do is hope.