Sometimes, mostly in the middle of the night, I whisper to my husband that I'm scared. Through his sleep he asks me why. I tell him I don't want to die. I remind him to send in my life insurance payment, just in case. I ask him if he would marry another soon after… He spoons me and mumbles something about thinking more positively. But as his snores deepen, I feel alone and tired and I start imagining my premature exit. And friends recalling my saintly existence. And my young daughters' tears.
It's only with the rising sun that I feel strong enough to wipe the salt from my own eyes and force an about face. I stand and stretch, and envision my powerful white blood cells charging at the evil abnormal ones. I don't know if there are any cancer cells left, but I have to imagine them being vanquished anyway, just in case.
I'm doing a lot of things now, just in case. I'm taking my vitamin supplements, just in case they boost my immune system. I'm reading the latest medical journals, just in case there is information about a new drug that might help me. I'm exercising regularly just in case it helps to keep my estrogen levels low enough to make a difference. I'm thinking more positively, during my waking hours, anyway, just in case my own mind can help cure me. I'm asking those who are religious for prayers and those who aren't for good thoughts, just in case they work. I'm more present to the present, just in case that is all I have.
Except when I am alone and tired, and I give into my imaginings of a bleak future. Why is it sometimes easier for me to dwell on hopeless scenarios than to picture myself emerging strong and healthy? Is it some kind of premonition? Or am I trying to prepare myself for the worst, just in case?
An earlier version of this piece appeared in A Healing Journey, by Sharon Bray, and excerpts appear in When Words Heal by the same author.
Sheree wrote this just after completing her chemo. Set free from scheduled treatments and the oddly comforting familiarity of the clinic, she felt utterly lost and vulnerable to recurrence. She has been cancer free for almost four years.