I wrote this piece on the fear of cancer - carcinophobia - for Huffington Post. But here's what I couldn't include in it:
When I was six I thought I was going to die.
This wasn't just a passing thought, it was an all-consuming fear and fixation that severely affected my life and my parents' lives. To the rest of the world, I looked like a happy little girl, but that just masked my monster - my master.
Because of this insidious anxiety, I'd throw up every single night before I went to bed. Every pain, every twinge, everything I didn't even feel - I felt was cancer.
My Bubby - my maternal grandmother - died when I was six. Not from cancer, but I think that's what led to this horrible phobia. So, to avoid an uncertain death, I created numerous self-imposed rules.
I remember one of these rules was a compulsion to be in bed by 8pm - otherwise, I would die.
One evening, my parents took my brothers and me out for supper to a fast-food restaurant. Typically, I'd be overjoyed at the prospect of this rarity. But not that night. It was almost 7:30pm! How would I make it home for my 8pm bedtime? I didn't want to die.
I wouldn't touch my fries - one of the most coveted treats my parents would allow on occasion. I started to panic. I cried hysterically. I had to get home. I'll never forget, we made it home by 7:57pm. I vomited out my fear. And fearfully slid into my bed.
That's just one way in which the fear of cancer affected my life as a child.
My carcinophobia started as a little girl, but thanks to therapy - and incredible parents - it also ended as a little girl. Nonetheless, cancer is still a fear.
As I'm certain is the case for you, I know, care about, and have cared about too many people whose lives have been affected or taken by cancer. In fact, while I wrote this article, I was writing two others: One included a person who recently died of cancer. One included a person who is fighting cancer. And neither of those articles were actually about cancer.
That's how pervasive it is.
Fear of cancer as a phobia, and fearing cancer are indeed two different things. But both are fears that stem from the very same reason. We’ve been so inoculated with fear over cancer that the two words seem synonymous.
Inevitably, to get rid carcinophobia and this ubiquitous f-word, we need to replace it with another, and F___ CANCER!
To that end, if anything from what you've read here applies to you, you should read my Huffington Post article:
Carcinophobia Is The Cancer That Can't Be Cured