– by Jennifer Glass
“Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie
I learned that I have Stage IIIB non-small cell lung cancer in January 2013, just four months after getting married. You can’t anticipate how you’ll react to news like this. In my case, I stayed calm. This led friends and family to say to me, “Jennifer, you’re fearless!”
I’m not, of course. We all have fear, but we can find ways to fear less. Taking fear out of the equation, even a little bit, enables us to think more clearly, make better decisions, and feel that we have some measure of control in the midst of chaos.
Here are three things that help me to stay strong and fear less:
Say it out loud
When I was first diagnosed I wasn’t sure how to tell people. A friend proposed that I avoid specific detail and simply say I’d be out on medical leave. But I thought, no, people will think I’m having liposuction or some problem with my lady parts, and will be too embarrassed to ask how I am.
I want to call it what it is. I have cancer. Metastatic lung cancer. And no, it’s not from smoking.
When I tell people, I am overwhelmed by empathy and offers of help. In many cases when someone learns the exact nature of my illness I receive specific, relevant and useful information or advice.
Play to your strengths and ask for help
I’m an extremely organized person and for me it is comforting to create lists and spreadsheets to manage the flood of cancer-related information. I am not, however, anyone’s idea of a domestic goddess, so I gratefully accepted when friends offered to arrange a meal caravan during the months of my chemo and radiation. By relinquishing responsibility for some activities I was better able to focus on dealing with my cancer without feeling overwhelmed.
Knowledge is power
Knowledge is power but the internet is a double-edged sword, with too much information to absorb and much of it not pertinent. Organizations such as LIVESTRONG provide thorough and thoughtful resources, designed to help patients and their loved ones deal with cancer at every phase.
I am fortunate to work with a team of knowledgeable and responsive medical professionals, and I’ll be forever grateful for their counsel, candor and kindness. Additionally, it’s a great help to me to talk with people who have my kind of cancer, who’ve have had my kinds of chemo (cisplatin and etoposide), and who struggle with the severe side effects of the medication I currently take (Tarceva).
Getting advice from professionals, talking with people who have what you have, finding local resources – these are all critical steps for building a support network that can help minimize our fear.
I’ve been living with cancer for a year now. There are days when this beast of a disease lays me low, but those days are the exception not the rule. Most often I am able to think clearly about my situation and not let fear cloud my judgment. Finding ways to fear less helps me to LIVESTRONG.
– Watch Jennifer’s video, Fear.Less.
– To read Jennifer’s column, At the Top of My Lungs: Living with Lung Cancer, “Like” her Facebook page