It's weird to think that I have lived a life full of illnesses and health problems that other people fear.
Living this kind of life, I have come to equate the word fear with the words decision and risk. You see, when things get really scary, it usually means that I have a decision to make or a risk I must consider taking. Somehow I have always found the courage to make all those tough decisions and take those imposing risks.
Perhaps it is because, before my life with illness began at 22, I was already well on my way to developing the skill of stepping out of my comfort zone and taking risks.
I moved out of my parents house at 18.
I figured out how to go to college, work and support myself all at the same time.
Living in the dorms my first two years of college, surrounded by new people, I tried lots of new things: music, points-of-view, food, clothes, perspectives, cultures and experiences.
I asked boys out on dates instead of waiting around for them to ask me.
By 22, I had made lots of decisions and lots of mistakes, many of which provided valuable lessons.
Some might say that I was courageous in the face of fear because I was diagnosed with cancer and went through eight months of chemotherapy to beat it. Perhaps I was, but I don't remember it that way. Because once I heard the word cancer and the path of treatment was laid before me, I knew I had no choice but to go in that direction.
It wasn't until after my cancer treatment that I truly faced my fears. And there were so many things to be fearful of:
I was scared when I returned to my college studies, knowing that all my friends had graduated and moved on without me.
I was scared about living a life with viral hepatitis, knowing that future health problems might be lurking around the corner.
I was scared that boys wouldn't find me attractive any more, since my cancer treatment made me unable to have children.
I was scared that being a cancer survivor would make it harder to make new friends to replace all the ones that I lost during my cancer experience.
I was scared about spending the next five years waiting to find out if my cancer would be cured or if it would return.
Looking back, I see the courage it took to start my life over again after I had cancer. I see how many decisions I made and risks I took to overcome my fears. Most of all, I see how confronting my fears and taking these risks paid off.
Here now today, I acknowledge that these past six years of living with chronic, disabling illnesses have been a new and difficult chapter in my life. There have been many scary moments, full of fears about what impact chronic illness would have on my life and how I would have to change and adapt to my new circumstances. Once again, there have been many decisions to make and risks to take.
Through it all, I have been constantly amazed at how things seem to work themselves out. The more I deal with life and it's uncertainties, the more I realize that there is nothing to fear. There is nothing to fear because, in the end, I will be O.K. As long as I do my part, by taking risks and making decisions, the Universe will take care of me.
I just need to keep feeling the fear and living my life anyway.