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Dancing With Fear

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted because I’m actually living after surviving chemotherapy. I’ve heard many say they never felt the symptoms of cancer; it’s the treatment that almost killed them. I agree, however, the chemo has given me life, at least for now. The “at least for now” sounds rather cynical, but I’m afraid of calling myself a cancer survivor. I’ve read stories of women who survived breast cancer only to see it resurface with a vengeance.

I just read Elizabeth Edwards book Resilience, thinking I would gain strength from her hope in the midst of several traumatic events, cancer being one of them. Instead, her words felt almost prophetic. Here is a quote from her book…

“The cancer was back. Well, I suppose the doctors would say it had never really gone. I thought the chemo chased it away… But it only chased away the big pieces; the smallest of pieces had stayed, hidden from the scans, too small for imaging: they had stayed and then grown. And now, here it was again, now grown, now in its new home. No longer in my breast, it had spread to my bones, maybe my lungs and maybe my liver. And it wasn’t leaving. Not ever. In that moment when I found out for certain that I would have cancer in me every single day until one day it finally took my life, all the reasons to live and the reasons to die, the way to live if I could, all danced before me, twirling, enticing until I chose a partner from among them. Live. Die. Fight. Curl up. Look for a hug. Give a hug. Cry. Cry. Cry.” Elizabeth Edwards

Though cancer is the obvious comparison, I’ve been thinking about how all of life entices us to choose a “partner from among them.” With Edwards cancer reoccurrence, “live, die, fight, curl up, look for a hug, give a hug, cry, cry, cry” are reasonable dance partners. As believers in Jesus or having faith in God, we have additional partners to choose from (faith, hope, trust, etc…) but we still have to choose who we will dance with and what message we will dance to.

Sometimes I feel a little psychotic because I seem to change partners more often than not. One day, I am dancing with “hope and faith.” Then, without notice or because of some small trigger from my past, I will spend the day or days dancing with “fear and doubt”. Today, fear of hidden cancer, sadness from the recent death of a friend and merely trying to stay the course are enticing me to dance with fear.

Thankfully, my job requires me to stay engaged. Being a part of authentic community and believing my life has purpose sent fear back to the wall. It’s amazing how those two things can pull me out of the fetal position. Within five hours, I have changed dance partners again.

If you find yourself being enticed by fear, sometimes you have to walk through it. Ironically, dancing with fear and doubt usually lead to faith and hope. Other times, being with people (get out of the house) and having enough faith to simply do the next right thing will bring renewed hope.

Who are you dancing with today? There’s not a “right” answer to this question. My encouragement is to put words to the feelings rather than falling in a hole wondering why it’s difficult to get through the day. The dance of fear is always waiting to “cut in.” If the lesson is in the fear, walk on. If not, call someone, go out and live what you are passionate about and as always… do the next right thing.

FYI… as God would have it; I met with someone today who has worked in oncology for years. Her advice, “studies show that people who have a positive attitude, have some form of spiritual life and laugh often have a lower reoccurrence rate than those who don’t.” Go figure.
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