A few days ago I realized there was a fairly substantial infection in my gums. It had been building for a while. How could I not catch it earlier?
Panic set in immediately and sleep has been restless since.
What’s the big deal with a gum infection?
Fear and anxiety are the shadow companion of all but the most Zen cancer survivor. With the slightest possible symptom – or possibly none at all – you can just FEEL that silent invader back in your body. Even if you’ve been “cured,” the chemo and radiation you took bring with it a high incidence of secondary unrelated cancer.
Not to mention I’ve read a few times about a suspected connection between poor oral health and brain cancer.
Plus, let's not forget the two nasty brain infections that came after surgery in 2015, which may or may not have been life-threatening – my surgeon dodged the question. If I’m not careful, I can let myself imagine that infection creeping up through my sinuses to find its way through the blood-brain barrier.
Last week I came across this video by actor/comedian Bill Hader, where he talks about dealing with the chronic anxiety that used to be debilitating. He says “It doesn’t really go away. You manage it. And instead of pushing away your anxiety… put your arm around it and say 'O there you are. I knew you’d be there someplace. Let’s go take that test. Let’s get on the bus. Let’s figure it out.'”
That’s the process I’ve had to learn and continue to learn over and over with every gum infection and headache and eye twitch and hand tremor.
It’s a matter of remembering again that it’s just fear, and then putting the fear aside and accepting that death is present. And being okay with it, like I’ve been okay with it before.
Cancer may be the trauma that keeps on giving, but life is a gift. At the heart of it, I get scared because I want to live; but if fear cripples me, I’m not really living.
In the past few years I’ve watched my sons step into adulthood, with Evan happy to be on his own in college and Kyle looking toward future plans in far-flung places. Rachelle is stepping onto a new career path that builds on the skills developed over a lifetime. At this time tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to the Cascade Mountains with a friend.
What choice is there but to stay focused on blessings like that?