Name: Shannon F.
Tell us your story:
I read the definition of anxiety over and over before I began to write this. I asked myself two questions. 1) Would I describe how I feel as anxiety? 2) Do I do such a good job at masking my anxiety that I’ve hidden it from myself? I’ve tried to tell myself through the years that life happens and that I have to remain strong. I’ve held up this facade for as long as I can remember. Even when I felt like crying I never wanted to a appear weak so very few people have seen me shed a tear, even in moments where tears seemed appropriate. People will even comment and praise how strong I am. Oh, but when those doors close and I’m alone, you see a woman that most have never been introduced to.
Fast forward to January 2015, at the age of 33 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A mother of 4 boys who were 7, 5, and 1-year-old twins. The day I was diagnosed I can’t say my heart was racing, as I feared the unknown, but it was the complete opposite, my world slowed down. I was in a room full of people but felt like I was alone. Everyone was talking but I could not hear a word they said. I immediately went into fight mode. “I have to survive”, is what I told myself. I have to be here because if I die now I will only be a vague memory to my young babies. Or maybe they will be too young to remember the memories I tried to already give them. The support I received was amazing. My family, close friends, and even those that I barely knew helped me get through what I then thought was the hardest chapter I would face in my life. I sought out the love of God more than I ever had during those times…
After surviving a double mastectomy, 8 rounds of chemo, and growing accustomed to my new life the real test, and hardest quest, has come about. My dreaded question is, “what now”? What is my purpose Lord, I ask him almost daily. I mean you kept me here on earth so it must not be fulfilled. I feel like God has given me so many talents, blessed me abundantly, but here I lay with my 4 children, 36 years old, married on paper but in a loveless marriage for years, sleeping in my mother’s 3 bedroom house, still barely making it, feeling so unaccomplished. See, what I’ve realized is my fear was not my battle with cancer but my anxiety comes from the fear of not knowing what to do now. Am I accomplishing what God left me here to accomplish? Sometimes I wonder how I took on cancer but cannot start and complete a task. I literally set goals for myself and do not complete one. I get fired up all to put out my own flame. Sometimes I feel as though I am my own obstacle, my own worst enemy. Now understand that this is where my sleepless nights come in. This is when I want to drink myself to sleep. I stop taking care of myself and start to think, why God did you leave me here Lord? What is my purpose and why is it so hard to step out on faith and trust that what is for me will be for me. So instead I keep myself so busy with my children that it never allows me the time to really think about what’s really going on within me. I make excuses as to why I can not do things. I scroll through social media, and at 36 compare my successes to those that I love and admire all while wondering what am I doing wrong.
I do not take life for granted, but I do. How do you survive cancer and then just stop? How do you feel like you have no purpose, when clearly I know that I do. Why did the fear of losing life not ignite something in me to succeed? See, I do not have some triumphant ending to my story yet. I am lost and still do not know what direction I’m going in. This has actually been hard for me to write because I have never been this open and honest with others. I’ve mastered making things “look good”. Cancer did not kill me but let me be honest, sometimes I feel like anxiety will.
I pray that I arrive at a place in life where I do not allow fear to dictate my next move. That I master not being anxious but being still, and moving my feet when God says move. I want to go in the direction he has destined for me, and stop making u-turns at every intersection. To many, I have defeated cancer. I’ve taken on the title of survivor, but I want to do more than survive I want to live. The only advice I can give people is in life at least try at something before you claim failure over it. Be your true self, it’s an exhausting journey pretending. You’re only given one life, live it to its full potential. Trust God and step out on faith. These are the exact words I’m saying as I look at my reflection. To be continued…..