Lucy Van Pelt: Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia. Charlie Brown: I don’t think that’s quite it. Lucy Van Pelt: How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia. Charlie Brown: Well, sort of, but I’m not sure. Lucy Van Pelt: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia? Charlie Brown: What’s pantophobia? Lucy Van Pelt: The fear of everything. Charlie Brown: THAT’S IT! [ Lucy goes flying out into a field of snow ]
“Now Lizzie,” my sister began, “You are doing it again.” She was speaking real slowly as if I were a child. “You don’t have colon cancer” she continued. The idea occurred to me with the same fervor it had in it’s origination some ten years ago. “It happens every spring,” she reminded. No, she was not referring to the old movie she was referring to my obsession with getting cancer. My mom was diagnosed in the spring and died in early summer. She had a rare form of intestinal cancer. While cancer was what took her life, mental illness was the sickness that plagued her. It was all so traumatic. My mom had spent her life fighting depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. When it came time to battle the cancer, she crumbled under it’s weight. Immobilized by fear, she held herself up in her bedroom, sobbing constantly. Eventually becoming suicidal, she refused to see the doctor, the preacher, and anyone else who had the courage to stop by. Finally, we were able to get her to see a psychiatrist, but it was too late, she died two weeks later. The day we buried her, I laid on the bathroom floor checking and rechecking my breast for lumps. Breast cancer was the first cancer mom had. It became one of the cancers I would fixate upon over the course of most of my adulthood.
Then came therapy. Along with therapy, came medication. They have both saved my life, therapy being the most important. It became clear to me if I was going to make it, I needed some assistance. I decided I would face this giant head on and take it down one day at a time. Last spring, the nasty thing raised it’s ugly head with it’s familar havoc. It was like The Terminator, refusing to die.
My diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder, but I heard early in my treatment the words “trauma” and “stress from trauma” even “post trauma.” I always brushed it aside as part of my diagnosis. I believed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was reserved for Veteran’s, people who had definitely come in contact with stress. Last summer, I decided I was tired of every relieving the same thing every spring. I found a doctor that specialized in “memory therapy.” At first I thought brain surgery would have been easier, but the more I moved into those memories the need for relief necessitated itself. Choosing to save the details for a time when I am more comfortable to share, I can honestly say the experience helped me.
My sister, who for years I made practice medicine without a license, no longer has to look up the symptoms of every cancer on the internet with me and compare them to my own. I don’t pull her into the bathroom when we meet for dinner to show her “this one little mole.” My tendency to obsess will always be with me. The nightmare of it all, however, has ceased. I think that if cancer happens upon me now, I could face it with a calmer core.