Two Bitches – Fear and Panic

Photo credit: darkbird77

“I expect great results.” The charming and jovial doctor sat across from us and smiled. “Everyone I have treated in your shoes has responded positively.”

“And how long have you been a doctor?” My husband smiled sheepishly but also, yes, let’s get a read on the extent of “everybody.” Good question, Babe.

The doctor looked at his watch pensively and replied, “I think like two weeks?”

He was kidding. I’m pretty sure he was kidding. We all laughed so I’m assuming…High fives all around ended the appointment and more appointments were scheduled. Just another path to walk. No big deal. Been there done that.

I walked into the prep room of the hospital a couple weeks later. The quick routine procedure spiraled unannounced into a panic attack and hit me square in the chest in a split second. The last time I was in a room like this, “a routine procedure” left me in the oncology ward for five days.

“This isn’t that!!” I internally shouted at myself trying to get a grip while I donned the “gown”, attempting to redirect my focus to the directions I had been given.

(Side note, can we please rename the “hospital gown”? The crepe like square of cloth reminiscent of an old flour sack, with random holes and too many occupants to count does not deserve to be called a “gown”. The word “gown” should be proceeded by adjectives like “inaugural” or “beaded”. Also, I may have had a bit of fun with “”. One must entertain oneself.)

Anyway, I surrendered my clothing and dignity and the nurse returned to take my blood pressure. It was high. No kidding! The world had turned to a swirling mass of chaos! Your lucky I’m not a giant pile of goo right now!

I kept trying to take a deep breath and fight back the torrent of emotion. She said she would come back in a few minutes to retake my blood pressure. I nodded and wiped my eyes.

“Get a grip, Rebecca!” I yelled internally again. David handed me a tissue, rubbed my back, and I climbed onto the gurney (not a bed – see above discourse on the word gown). I shut my eyes and kept trying to breathe. For an autonomous action, it’s amazing how difficult breathing can be at times.

Life leaves no one unscathed. At some point, we all find ourselves in the metaphorical forest, as the sun sets, and enveloping darkness and strange threatening sounds push in and isolate us.

I’m in the forest. I can’t run. And Fear, smelling my indecision like a shark smells chum, runs at me. A chill rises from the damp mossy ground, adding an eerie mist. I try to reason with her. “Hey Fear, listen, it’s going to be okay. This isn’t going to be a big deal. Of course I’m fearful. Who wouldn’t be? But, you can go now, and uh, thanks for stopping by.”

The vapor swells, dancing at my feet, and blocking any view of the ground where I’m standing. I spin around looking for any way out, a tiny vantage point into the trees, some faint hint at a direction to run. The expanding fog rises and swirls around me, pulling in the smells of pine and damp earth. The shock of the cool heady vapor hitting my nostrils stings and announces Fear’s twin sister Panic has heard the thudding of my heart like a drum calling soldiers to battle.

For the last few weeks, I have attempted to fight Fear and Panic, pulling out as many strategies as I can muster. The plan was to get all the facts then start fighting the disease, understanding fully the outcome looks positive. I may have underestimated my foes.

Fear and Panic are ruthless bitches. I’ve delude myself into thinking there’s an ounce of humanity within them – or that their reign of terror would somehow motivate me. When I was a teacher, I used to remind my students, “Fear is a powerful motivator.” But now I wonder. Remember the scene in the movie where the deeply frightened teenagers being chased through the woods run as fast as they can into the barn? Fear “motivated” them, and how does that turn out? Fear just made them run into the next chapter of doom.

I think fear pushes us and causes us to move, to attempt to run away, because she loves a good hunt. Her and her sister are like tigresses who isolate the weak and wounded, setting up a chase where the outcome is nearly guaranteed. But I’m not sure that’s the same thing as motivation. It’s just movement. It feels like motivation should have an association with something positive, maybe?

My forest is cancer. It’s back, and I start chemo soon. Fear is on me like an angry swarm of bees and I can hear Panic breathing heavy in anticipation of her quarry. Mantras like, “It’s fine”, and “No big deal” run through my head at frequent intervals. Turns out, Fear and Panic chew trite platitudes like bubble gum. They chew them up and spit them in my face, causing me to retch.

I started fumbling around in old files on my computer looking for something productive to do and keep Fear and Panic at bay. I found this gem in an old blog post I wrote and probably never posted, “But gratitude is always the fruit of correctly altered perspective.” Seriously? I wrote that?

Correctly altered perspective. Hmmm. Currently, my perspective is dictated by those two bitches, Fear and Panic. So, what would happen if I invite Perspective? “Come on over Perspective. Meet my nemesises…nemesi?” Give me a sec…nemeses. “Come on over Perspective and meet my nemeses. You can take a swing at these two and I’ll take a breather.”

Turns out, Perspective is a bit skittish and fragile. She wants to crawl into my lap. So, in the middle of the fray, I sit in the dirt, cross my legs, and close my eyes. Fear, sensing I’m changing the rules of the fight, begins to scream. I hear her and instead of the continued futile attempt to ignore her, I listen. All this time she’s been whispering nonsense, but I was too afraid to register the words. This entire time Fear was a complete idiot? Why did I listen?

Perspective brings me back. She times her breathing to mine and I being to calm down. She then rises above me in an orb of light like Glenda the Good Witch. A hint of illumination reveals she is not alone. She has brought her friends – Hope, Faith, Love, Joy, and Peace. They stand in the blurred edge between light and shadow, incandescent and translucent like a rainbow. Fear shrieks. She wants me to keep wrestling with her, engaging her, and focusing on her.

Perspective laughs and her glow brightens as I steady my gaze on her beautiful gown (see what I did there? That’s a proper use of the word). It reflects tender memories where Hope, and Faith, and Joy, and Love, and Peace have visited. My new born child placed on my heaving chest until our breathing falls into sync and we both drift into a blissful rest. A student’s eyes alight, find mine, and I see a whole new world of comprehension has opened up to them. And the time I stood on the parapet of a broken and ancient castle and heard history whisper to me in the wind. Memories play like an old home movie reel, one after the other.

Perspective rises with each memory, supported and heightened by the presence of her allies.

I can no longer hear Fear or Panic.

A warmth falls across me, as if the sun has just burst through the clouds – the humbling realization and recognition of all the amazing and glorious moments. And then faces fill the screen – my husband, my children, friends – a cloud of witnesses who surround me with love and support – the amazing people who share life with me.

Perspective has done her thing and made way for Gratitude.

Lesson learned…perhaps again. As I said before, apparently like 15 years ago, Gratitude is always the fruit of correctly altered Perspective.

I have a couple of questions for you:

  1. Any thoughts on a new name for a “hospital gown?” Seriously, maybe we can help make the world a better place.
  2. How do you invite Perspective? … Prayer? Meditation? Exercise?

Shoot me a response in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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13 Comments on "Two Bitches – Fear and Panic"

  1. Casey Bywater
    15/03/2024 at 7:16 pm Permalink

    You are a brilliant writer and i love you.
    You are right on about the gown word. Everyone that has ever put one on agrees.
    I find perspective by remembering where we have come from, what we have overcome already, how much stronger we are compared to the years past, how we have changed for the better, hopefully helped people along the way. Grateful for all the precious things you mentioned.
    But I’m afraid too. Also crying

  2. Rebecca Qualls
    15/03/2024 at 8:34 pm Permalink

    Don’t cry! It’s just a little pain and inconvenience. And I have a new perspective! I love you too and I’m thinking we could call it a kerchief. That’s a word no one uses anymore.

  3. Bri Geney
    15/03/2024 at 9:09 pm Permalink

    Hospital napkin? Ha!
    You are an amazing writer, and the perspective you gave me should I ever meet your friends, Fear and Panic, is invaluable. What a blessing it is to be able to feel gratitude and peace amidst our troubles. It immediately brought two scriptures to mind: Colossians 3:15-17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
    James 1:2-6 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
    Thinking of you and praying for you ❤️

  4. Lin Wilder
    16/03/2024 at 11:39 am Permalink

    Dear Rebecca,

    I can’t know…can only imagine.
    Here’s what I do know—Jesus stands right beside, below, above- you’re surrounded by Him.

    I’m in Texas but a phone call away.

    Much love and fervent prayers,
    Lin

    Lin

  5. Rebecca Qualls
    18/03/2024 at 9:45 am Permalink

    Thank you, Lin! I so appreciate the prayers and support!

  6. Arlene Billups
    16/03/2024 at 4:14 pm Permalink

    I love your writing!
    I agree the word gown is totality, wrong for it does not surround one’s body. Maybe call it a body spread, because it is more like a bedspread with holes!
    Fear is when we let the earthly demons into our thoughts instead of thoughts of hope, faith, and Jesus!

  7. Rebecca Qualls
    18/03/2024 at 9:46 am Permalink

    Thank you, Arlene! A “body spread”! I like it!

  8. Amanda Cole
    16/03/2024 at 8:06 pm Permalink

    Rebecca,
    So happy to see this pop up- your words are so beautiful and I will share this to several people who will appreciate some altered perspective. I haven’t seen you in so many years and yet I can hear you in this piece so clearly. Kick cancer’s a$$ – please . We miss you and will keep you in our prayers – Mike and Amanda Cole

  9. Rebecca Qualls
    18/03/2024 at 9:47 am Permalink

    Hi Amanda! We miss you too! And we should schedule a meet up in about six months when I have fully kicked cancer’s a$$! Thank you for your prayers!

  10. Christine West
    17/03/2024 at 8:05 am Permalink

    Hi Rebecca! I am so sorry that the cancer is back. I pray for complete trust in God’s provision. May He give you His strength to fight this battle. I can see such a gift for writing that He gave you and for that – I am so grateful. Praying for your complete healing. One of my dear friends had a second go around with ugly cancer and is winning the battle. I pray that you keep your eyes on victory.

  11. Rebecca Qualls
    18/03/2024 at 9:48 am Permalink

    Thank you, Christine! It’s encouraging to hear of others who are winning! I appreciate your prayers!

  12. Janet Hanson
    22/03/2024 at 10:25 am Permalink

    Dear Rebecca,
    Perhaps, “Manufactured Fig Leaf”? Then the gown will seem quite generous!
    I am so, so sorry about the cancer, but not about what you are learning, and sharing with the rest of us. I love Rowan William’s definition of faith (which really is the heart of perspective, isn’t it?) as “dependable relationship.” We are held by the Dependable One, even when we don’t feel like we can hold on. Love and prayers, my friend.

  13. Rebecca Qualls
    22/03/2024 at 10:52 am Permalink

    Manufactured Fig Leaf?! Haha! That does offer the opportunity for a more generous perspective! Well done! Thank you for your prayers and your thoughts, providing beautiful and deep things to ponder. You so speak my language! Love and prayers to you too!

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