This is a random little blurb I wrote about two and a half years ago, a mini-essay of sorts on fear. I wrote it after learning a friend of mine, at age nineteen, might have cancer. (She didn’t, just FYI.) I found it on my computer and felt compelled to post it. So, enjoy, and make sure to give me your thoughts!
There’s the jittering, nervous fear that makes your palms go damp with sweat and your eyes dart from side to side, the fear a child might feel when given a long, scrutinizing look by his mother, the kind of look that says she just knows you took the last cookie and you’re going down no matter what. The same fear a student will feel when they realize they forgot to do the previous night’s homework—which, of course, is always the homework the teacher chooses to collect and mark.
For some there’s the irrational but very real fear brought on by phobias. We all have our little phobias, whether it’s the girl who squeals and demands that somebody other than her kill the spider she just saw on the windowsill or the fully grown man who just can’t bring himself to climb a ladder because even the thought of heights makes his stomach pitch and his head spin.
Normal fears, two of which you’ve more than likely experienced. At some point you’ve probably been the frantic student, feverishly trying to recall what happened in the world in 1814 (the War of 1812 came to an end, for one). You might have been the person who jumped onto a table at the sight of a long, mousy tail. If your circumstances were really lousy, maybe you’ve felt the blind, all-consuming fear of the hunted.
Those go away, though. Whether for better or worse, eventually you hand in the test paper, or the spider scuttles away. You get through it, and the fear fades—until next time, of course.
What about the fear that stays with you, the one that whispers cruel taunts in your ear when you’re trying to sleep at night or suddenly grabs you by the throat in the middle of what you thought was an ordinary day? What about the fear you can’t quite shake off, no matter how hard you try?
That’s the worst of them. The fear that grips your heart and squeezes it until you’re sure it’s going to break, makes you want to scream and rage at the world, and then leaves you alone. You can go minutes, hours, even days acting normally and chatting with friends, going about your life as if there’s nothing wrong—but then it comes back, digs its claws into you and takes you down, and you feel as if there’s no possible way you can make yourself get up and be human today. All you want to do is huddle under the covers to ride out the storm of waiting.
When you’re scared, it’s better to know what you’re scared of, the better to know how to face it. But for the nameless fear that digs its hooks into a person every time the word cancer is mentioned, there’s no way to face it. The only thing we can do is dig in our heels and hope and pray that the little spot on the X-ray won’t be cancer, won’t be that horrible disease that’s taken so many lives. We can only offer support. We’re not doctors; we can’t miraculously find a cure. We’re only friends, and if cancer is going to take one of us, all we can do is be there and eventually go on with our lives, hoping and praying that someday soon someone will find the cure and save future generations from feeling this horrible, clawing fear so many thousands of people before my friends and I have endured.
The fear that comes along with the mention of cancer in connection to one of your closest friends is its own brand of disease, and hope is all we can do to fight it.