Until Valentine’s day this year, my greatest fear in life was getting cancer in my twenties. (I’ve always been terrified of cancer, and perhaps because of some sixth sense, or just because my mom fought and conquered cancer in her twenties, I’ve always worried it might also happen to me. Not that the worrying made the experience any easier!) But this year, just over two months before I turned twenty-seven and while 32 weeks pregnant with my first son, my greatest fear was realized. I was told I had cancer, in a dramatic, unfortunate way (after going to the emergency room at 1 a.m. for difficulty breathing and having a chest x-ray the emergency room doctor said, “Well, the good news is you don’t have a pulmonary embolism. The bad news is that you have an enormous mass in your chest, and I’m almost sure that it’s cancer.” Excuse me, the good news???)
During the past seven months I’ve faced my greatest fear. And the thing is, at the risk of boasting, I believe I’ve conquered it. Technically I still haven’t been told I’m cancer-free, but I’ve conquered the idea of cancer. Though it’s true that I’ve experienced suffering and seen darkness like never before, I’ve also experienced joy and seen more beauty than ever before. And through it all, I’ve learned that choosing to live in hopefulness is the only way to live. And why should we not live in hopefulness, even in the face of evil, even in the face of cancer? For like Mary Magdalene after Jesus’ death, we too have been told, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.” (Matthew 28: 5-6)
Since I’ve started writing here on Be Not Afraid, I’ve discovered that there’s an amazing plethora of beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking writing available on the internet. One of the best blogs I’ve stumbled upon is Chatting at the Sky, where Emily writes about finding beauty in the things around her and giving thanks to God who has created such beauty. Recently, Emily challenged her readers to try the 31 day challenge: 31 days to write and enter more deeply into a topic that has been on your heart. I’ve loved sharing my struggles and joys on this blog, and in the process learning more about myself. And so, today I’m beginning the 31 day challenge. I hope that you’ll join me for the next 30 days as I challenge myself to continue to face my fears. Each day I’ll push myself to face one of my many fears, and I’ll write about it here. I’m starting today by facing a few fears. I’m afraid to make myself face more fears after the past few harrowing months. I’m afraid to continue to make myself vulnerable and share with others what my fears are. I’m afraid of rejection and being misunderstood. But in the face of fear I have learned to choose hope. And so I enter this challenge repeating what has been my mantra and the mantra of my family through a cancer diagnosis, numerous days in the hospital, a risky c-section, 5 weeks in the NICU for my son, countless airplane flights and long drives for my family to visit and care for me, tears, tears, and more tears: Be Not Afraid.
As always thank you for all of your support. The beauty I’ve witnessed in the past seven months is not only God’s love, but your amazing, generous, boundless, unending love. For this love I cannot thank you enough.