To Worry Or Not To Worry—That Is the Question


My liver counts have been high, randomly, ever since I had breast cancer, chemotherapy and Tamoxifen. The first couple of times this happened, I worried like crazy that I also had liver cancer.

Now I’m able to manage that fear, unless something unusual occurs —like my primary care physician calls during Thanksgiving vacation to tell me I should see the gastroenterologist because, now that I’m a normal, healthy person she needs to treat me differently. Then the cancer terror runs through me like a jolt of lightning.

Why Worry?

blue purple horizontal several strands lightning istockMy mother died of pancreatic cancer, 16 years after her mastectomy. I never thought there was a connection. But somewhere along the line, one of the many oncologists, radiologists and surgeons I saw while trying to decide what steps to take myself after my diagnosis, said, “Hmm. Pancreatic. Could have metastasized from the breast cancer.”

“After 16 years?” I asked her.

“Yes,” was the uncomfortable answer she gave.

This bit of history explains some of my anxiety around high liver counts. But for me, like many cancer survivors, any new development triggers the fear: Is it cancer? Though I don’t like it, the fear, I know, is natural. The body remembers even when the mind prefers to forget.

Putting the Worry Away

But I have become better at compartmentalization—a gift from cancer I never expected. I used to be champion worrier. Days after the initial jolt, the fear still gnawed my innards. And when people tried to make me think positively about the potential outcome of a growth or a test I had to wait for results on, I growled at them like a dog guarding a bone.

Let me feel what I feel, I said, perhaps because as a child I wasn’t allowed to, perhaps because it gave me something to do while I waited, perhaps because I believed that pre-worrying would reduce the post-worrying, even though it actually never did.

casey and alysha far away on cape cod beach, dunes to rightI’m different now. Now I let myself feel afraid for a little while, just to allow the feelings some room to play themselves out. I express them, then remind myself that if the test results come back bad, illness is going to take over my life. These days or weeks before the results come in could be the best time I’ll have for a while, maybe a long while. Maybe forever. I’ll be damned if I’ll use them up worrying.

I tell myself it’s probably fine. Even when I think I might be lying. Why not? What’s for sure is that there’s next-to-nothing I can do about it, except pray to the Goddess, or exercise, or write in my journal, and those things I do.

The rest of the time, I try to live my life, up, down and sideways—however it comes—till the verdict arrives.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posted in Emotional Health.


  Next Post:

11 Replies

  1. Hey, Cheryl. I just learned about the incredible yoga teacher Matthew Sanford, author of WAKING, who has learned to listen to the silences in his life–good silences! See you, Anita

  2. admin Jun 1st 2010

    Anita, I don’t know about him. Where does he teach? What are the silences in his life?

  3. Susam Jun 9th 2010

    This is a wonderful blog, Cheryl. Thanks for sending me to your site, and I’ll sign up for blog updates. Best, Susan McLean

  4. admin Jun 9th 2010

    Susan, thanks so much! Delighted you’re signing up for updates. Just remember you have to sign up in the left hand column of each page/blog you want to stay in touch with. I”m curious what you, as a great reader, think of the blog on WRITE page.Let me know!

  5. Awesome! Thank you.

  6. are there any other good internet links about Reiki? i am really interested about it.-,’

  7. John, I learned Reiki from two wonderful Reiki Masters Ulrike and Denis Dettling Kalthofer in Arlington, MA. Their website is Check it out. If you’re in the Boston area, I recommend getting some sessions from them and perhaps then going on to learn how to be a practitioner yourself. Cheryl

  8. Charlene Jun 29th 2010

    Please know, I have nothing but admiration for you.
    One of many lessons I’ve embraced as a practicing Buddhist is the importance of living in the present moment. Most importantly what helped me most while my mother was fighting her 2nd bout of cancer [ Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a type of Leukaemia ], was to not allow my worries to over shadow the present. I refused to be at her wake while she was still breathing.

    You’re walking strong, keep it up.

  9. Hi Charlene – I know you!!!!! :-) I like your comment about refusing “to be at [your mom's] wake while she was still breathing.

    My little theory is that being a bit silly and connecting with as much humor as possible (films, books, etc.) act as natural biochemical healers. I know I’m not the first or the last to come up with this idea, but if you’re worried,” I believe that it’s been proven that it’s impossible to laugh and be truly scared at the same time.

    Now if only humor couldl bust through nasty Cambridge humidity so I can sleep #*&^% — blessings to Cheryl and see you on FB I hope, Charlene.

  10. (sorry, I’m so tired my typing’s lousy….)

Subscribe without commenting