Carcinophopia—Fear of Cancer

Did you know today is World Cancer Day? I wasn’t familiar with this event until I saw it on Twitter this morning. Or maybe I did know but chose to stuff it deep down into that place where I keep all my fears about it. And I should tell you, the place is full. It’s busting at the seams because talk of ‘it’ is everywhere.

You can probably name at least ten people in your life who’ve been diagnosed. And like me, you may have lost somebody close to you because of it. (I try to not directly refer to ‘it’ by name if I can help it. It’s easier to ignore when it’s unacknowledged.)

I’m obviously afraid of it. Unlike a fear of sharks or getting swallowed by a sink hole, this disease is a more statistically plausible threat.

We’re a pretty Cancer Phobic society—focused on a killer that may or may not ever come for us. Realistically we’re more likely to die of heart disease in North America than from cancer and yet we hyperfixate on the Big C.

Is it any wonder so many of us suffer from Carcinophobia?


Cancer is in the news every day—this person has been diagnosed, that celebrity lost their battle, plastics will cause it, GMOs will accelerate it, that chemical will trigger it, these foods will cure it. It’s always there. News of it is always there, swirling around us.

There are always fundraisers and campaigns and events and dedicated days…. like “World Cancer Day.”

We all know people who have it.

Or had it. 

I’m curious (but nervous to actually do the research)—have cancer cases increased? Or is this as a result of being in my mid forties? As we age we often succumb to illness, so maybe it’s the company I keep? The fact is my peer group is heading into our sickly years and it’s possible I just never took much notice until ‘it’ starting hitting closer to home.

Or maybe we simply hear about it more than ever because our connections across the internet and through the media make it that way?

If you’re a doctor or a scientific researcher and you know the answer, please share. Wait, only if you tell that cancer is no more prevalent today than it was thirty years ago. It’s just that we didn’t talk about it back then. You could also add something about how incredibly close we are to a cure.

Obviously worrying about cancer isn’t going to prevent me from getting it. In fact, the stress will take a toll. Stress is toxic. Cancer feeds on toxic. Oh god.

So smart healthy people….
Live life one day at a time.
Are grateful for their health. 
Accept that it’s ultimately out of their control. 
Try not to worry about the future and instead focus on right now. 

I understand all of that. And I do what I can to make healthy choices every day. Obviously I don’t want cancer. The illness itself and the treatment is horrendous. But that’s not why I worry.

It’s about my kids—mostly my daughter. Avery has special needs and she will always be dependent on us to look after her. If something happens to me, how will she cope?

Of course her dad and her brother and our extended family and loving friends will take excellent care of her. She will be looked after and she will be loved. I know that.

But I am Avery’s person. She has lots of people, but I’m her number one. We are an inseparable duo.

When Avery’s Grandie died, she was shattered. She and my mother in-law also had a very special bond. It’s been nearly two years since she passed away but Avery still talks to the framed picture of her every day. It’s sweet but incredibly sad to hear her telling her grandmother about her cat or about how she joined the school choir and the Friendship Club. And when she sings to her, I can’t even…

A few weeks ago as we drove to dance class, we listened to classical music in the car to get in a ballet frame of mind. I was startled when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw tears pouring down Avery’s cheeks. It scared me. When I asked her what was wrong she said, “This music makes me sad. I miss my Grandie so much. I want her to come back.”

Two years and the pain is still there.

This is a child who is missing DNA crucial to the formation of memories. She forgets most people’s names. She forgets what number comes after eighteen. She forgets the name of fruits and vegetables, except for the ones she really likes. She forgets so many things, but the connections she has with certain people, she never forgets. That’s the thing about Avery, if she connects with you, that’s it. You’re in for life.

She are I are connected. So I can’t leave her. At least not too soon. And that’s why I’m terrified of the dark scary things that could take me away from her.
What’s The Time Limit On Grief? 
Pink Balloon—Helping Kids Deal With Grief
Lessons Learned From Loss 
Levity During Loss 

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