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  • Writer's pictureMark Pajak

The Big F

No - this article is not about my Medieval Literature grade in high school.

Question: Do you recognize the following definition? An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or is a threat.

Well, according to the on-line dictionary I use, it is the definition for Fear.

Recently I watched for about the third or fourth time the marvelous western movie classic “The Magnificent Seven” (the 1960 version and not the recent remake). It was playing on a movie channel at 2:00 am which fit right in with my crazy sleep patterns. In the movie, there is a character played by Robert Vaughn who reflects on and bemoans his predicament- an aged gun fighter who is not as fast or not as sharp as he once was. He realizes in his business it is a dangerous place to be. He finds himself struggling with this awareness and the realization that his best days are gone and that his days are numbered. He is paralyzed with fear trying to sort out this predicament which could be his final act.

After I was diagnosed, fear played a huge role in my life. I was:

Fearful that the treatments would not work; The cancer was not going to respond to the medicine in the way we (my oncologist and myself) desired and I would be unable to recover.

Fearful that the medicine’s side effects would overwhelm me and prove too extreme; I would not be able to survive the treatments.

Fearful that the cancer was so aggressive that even if I survived it would only be for a short while.

Fearful that I would experience sever, long-term pain (when diagnosed, I could barely walk down the hallway of our house because my back was aching so much) such as I had prior to diagnosis.

Fearful that the bone marrow transplant/stem cell treatment would prove ineffective.

Fearful that having cancer meant I was doomed to a life of suffering.

Fearful that I would miss the joys of future weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

Fearful that ………

You get the picture?! I was fearful of everything and every circumstance. I could not help myself. I was incapable of anything but fear and its younger sibling - worry.

This went on for quite some time. The result of all this fear mongering was that I really got sick of myself. I was desperate for relief. I wanted comfort but could not find it.

I expressed my state of mind to a friend who has had his own share of hurdles to jump over. He confirmed that I was giving cancer waaaaay too much power over my life. His suggestion to me was simple - GET OVER IT!!! Accept the situation and move on. I still had a life to live.

What marvelous advice.

To move forward while constantly being fearful is/would be difficult. I realized that if all I focused on was that which was lost or that which I did not like or that which brought fear was a sure way to stay mired in this stew of “yuk.”

His suggestion for trying to calm the “fear-filled” messages inside of me and to find some comfort was to simply accept that which had been laid in my lap. He asked me to focus my attention on that which was still “good” in my life and that which can/could be of benefit to myself and to others.

For me, Multiple Myeloma has been a cancer that requires an acceptance of “living” with a chronic disease (as opposed to being cured). It requires being satisfied with managing and adjusting to a situation that often is out of my control. It has been a situation that certainly lends itself to worry and fearfulness because at this point it is not something that can be totally solved or eliminated. It is what it is.

Continually overcoming the fear of cancer and accepting my Multiple Myeloma allows me to make choices as to how I want/wanted to move forward. Yes, I can be/could be fearful. Yes, I can be/could be worried However, the secret for me was and still is to remind myself that neither of those two options are required.

For me and as I suspect for most of us, living with Multiple Myeloma is a work in progress that does not have to be dominated by fear or worry. That is a choice I/we have. This is our life’s journey, and it is not to be feared. It is to be lived and experienced. It is to be accepted with the circumstances and situations that are presented to us hard as that may be at any given time.

Getting back to the Robert Vaughn’s character in The Magnificent Seven who struggles with the acceptance of his declining skills as a gunfighter, he eventually realizes that he has but one choice (much like we do) – to participate or not. To either live with that which is present (conquering his fear), move forward and see what happens or …… to sit on the sidelines and wait for the inevitable.


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