Discussion: When The Fear Falls Away

Last time I re-told a short vignette about the beginning of a young woman’s journey with cancer.  As many bloggers can attest, it’s hard to predict how what you write will land.  Sometimes I believe I’ve poured my very best into a piece and it hardly seems to get traction, and then other times, what I write or say seems to strike a cord.  When The Fear Falls Away had the most mixed response out of anything I’ve ever shared.  Some wrote to thank me— for the beautiful story, for the example of what’s possible with healing, and one reader was so bothered by the story and what it espoused that she angrily left my newsletter list.  She indicated that this piece was, “the last straw”, and that this was, “enough!”

Although I cannot write to please my readers, I did wonder what had happened for this reader to be as upset as she was.  Knowing I hadn’t done anything wrong (as I was simply relaying the facts of what happened) I tried to imagine what what I wrote meant to her.  Because she also indicated that she was incredulous that I should suggest that healing sexual abuse history healed this woman’s cancer, I wondered if she thought I was being irresponsible—claiming everyone could heal their cancer without standard medical treatment (medications, chemotherapy, and/or radiation).

I explained to her that, “in no way was my story prescriptive, that it was simply an report on something that had happened”, and I agreed with her that if it had been prescriptive, it would be potentially dangerous.

After thinking some more, I wondered if someone in her life might have been touched by cancer, and that she may have been speaking about her sister or mother, and that she may have felt my story trivialized what can be a long, hard, and very unpredictable road, one that on the best of days, calls on more resources than anyone ever believes they have, or should have to have.  The injustice of disease, especially when a life ends earlier than we would rightfully expect, is an unspeakably enormous grief to hold.

What was surprising to me is that although I was curious about how this unhappy reader had arrived at her attack, I was no less confident about what I wrote.  You see the young woman was me.  Was I lucky?  Possibly, in that I was able to heal without removing too many body parts or taking any drugs.  There was a cost though– more than I’ll name today, but I could summarize by saying my ideals about myself and where I’d come from needed to die.  Interestingly, the dying hasn’t stopped, even though the disease has.  I think letting outdated structures die gave and give me a better life.  Who knows?  Maybe I’m growing cancer again right now?

Maybe you also felt bothered by my story.  Maybe I did write irresponsibly, not taking into consideration that people may look to me as a doctor for guidance on their health.  So for that I reiterate it’s possible that not every cancer will heal, and that when cancer persists, it is not a “failure” of the person.  I can’t say a history of sexual abuse is at the root of every cancer.  It just was with me.