Karissa: How the Fear of COVID Helped Me Let Go of the Fear for My Life

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Dear Jack,

It pulsed through me like lightning through a power line. It ran up my body, twisting every nerve, before settling into a tangle in my throat.

Fear.

I have a “terminal” cancer diagnosis — Stage IV, with 8 percent odds of survival — so you would think I’d be used to feeling fear, but this was a complete surprise.

It started when I read an article about the shortage of ventilators in Europe, then one covering the guidelines in America about how patients with life-threatening pre-existing conditions wouldn’t be given ventilators if there was a shortage in the U.S. I imagined lying in a packed hospital hallway — with panicked nurses and coughing patients swarming around me — choking on my own breath.

I wrestled with the fear for weeks, at times trying to force it back down and at others trying to coax it into shrinking.

Deep breathing exercises, journaling and calling friends helped, but didn’t heal. I was on the edge of panic and reading the news, with all its grim tidings, nearly tipped me over that edge.

So I stopped reading it.

I relied on a trusted few to tell me what I needed to know. Sometimes, we don’t need ALL the information, we just need enough to make wise choices.

But the big key for me was this: I meditated on the fact that ultimately everything would be okay. Not just based on whether I’d get COVID or not, or on the likelihood that I would die from it or on the availability of ventilators, but on the truths of my faith. As a follower of the way of Jesus, I am promised healing — either here or in heaven. Someday, somehow, I will be whole again, perfect in a way that I couldn’t possibly approach even before cancer went on a rampage in my body.

I realized that no matter what, I would be okay.

And I was tired of feeling afraid. Of both COVID and cancer. Tired of letting my fears drain my energy and dampen the joy of the present. I can honestly say that I wasn’t worried about my next scan, which just happened to be clear. I have another one in August and I know I can’t control what it will show. So since I can’t control it and I know I’ll be okay no matter what, I decided to finally let go of the fear of what may come.

All of this brought me closer to letting go of my life. Of the fear of what might happen, of dying and of suffering. In breathing deep and letting go there is profound relief and quiet, steady joy.

Although my words don’t do it justice, it is my hope, hoped in the deepest part of my heart, that you can experience this relief for yourself.

Because far from choking on my own breath, I can finally breathe.

And I want that for you.

– Karissa R.

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