The Struggles: Placing Boundaries Around Fear After Bladder Cancer
Last updated: September 2022
The BladderCancer.net editorial team published an article on the community's views regarding a bladder cancer diagnosis and the struggles therein. The first point was that it (cancer) is always on the mind. That the fear associated with this is constant. The reasons for the fear varied, but the sense of dread and fear was pervasive.
As a 16-year survivor, I can certainly empathize with this sentiment. That said, I would like to weigh in with some observations and offer some help that has made the fear less powerful and daunting. I stress the word "less." By no means would I suggest that the fears vanish.
Befriend and validate
First off, do not waste energy trying to deny the fear or act as though it is not ever present, even warranted. A lesson learned from Buddhist teachings and meditation is that we strengthen ourselves and weaken our challenges when we befriend and validate them.
I sit with my fears. I speak to them as companions. "You are valid, and I thank you for showing up. Please tell me what you need and how I might allow you space and calm." I know when I am denied a voice, I tend to scream all the louder, and my fears do the same. Sometimes just giving voice to the fears allow them to pass or at least rest for a time.
Placing a boundary around fear
Next, I try to put a boundary around the fear. Picture a 2-year-old with boundless energy. A playpen is a godsend. Just containing that energy, so it does not run wild is helpful.
Try dedicating a set time and place for your emotions to overwhelm you. Give them 15 or 20 minutes at 7 in the morning on Tuesdays. Of course, you may wish to set a different time slot and duration. I prefer Tuesday because it is not Monday, and it allows me time to recover before I enjoy my Friday.
Do you want a snowball or an avalanche?
Fear is a lot like a snowball at the top of a hill. If you contain it just as it begins to roll, you have a fun fluffy ball of harmless powder. However, if you allow that same cute ball of fluff to gain speed and grow as it accumulates more snow while rolling down the hill, it becomes an avalanche, and you need a large dog with a whiskey cask around the neck to dig you out and rescue you.
The point being is this - practice recognizing the fears as they begin and leaning into them with kindness and compassion, so they do not grow and drag you down. Giving yourself the same level of compassion you would give a loved one is a wonderful place to begin. So often, our self-talk would be abhorrent if we ever spoke in a like manner to a loved one or even to a stranger. Never say anything derogatory or deprecating to yourself. Be as uplifting to yourself as you would be outward to others.
Fear after bladder cancer
Cancer is scary. Of that, I am sure, but I am equally sure that it can be a gift in equal measure. Beyond the fear, there is empathy, compassion, a renewed love, and connection for those I have taken for granted. The fear reminds me to live, not just exist. To love and show love, not just smile and nod. The flip side of fear is motivation to experience everything I am given the opportunity to grasp.
Over 70 people responded with their fears. I hope this may help some of you find a path that brings the fear to a manageable level and encourages you to spend equal time seeing the goodness.
Does your bladder cancer treatment have an impact on your mental health?
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