On Anxiety

“Just get over it.”

“Just get over it.”

“You’re fine!”

“You need to move on, Cassidy.”

“It could be so. much. worse.”

These are all actual phrases I’ve heard in the past six months, and I just can’t stay silent any longer. Before I explain, let me back up…

A little over five years ago, I fought one of the toughest battles imaginable. Notice how I said one? That’s important. It was a battle that I’ve noticed several people have faced and continue to face. It wrecks your daily life, messes with your routine, and takes away parts of you that you just can’t get back. It’s like a puzzle that you buy at Goodwill. Pieces are missing, gone forever. But there’s more to it. Because even though every case is different, I guarantee those who encounter this battle are strong. They fight hard. This battle exhausted me, terrified me, emotionally drained me, but it did not defeat me. No, I beat it. Cancer, I beat you. So how do you still have this hold on me? To those of you still facing your cancer battle, you hold a special place in my heart. I pray for you. I hope and dream for you. I love you, dear ones.

Fast forward to recently and I face a different battle. It looks quite different from cancer. It’s ugly, too. But it’s the kind of ugly that lurks from within. Some of the symptoms are similar and some are different. For example, it doesn’t cause you to lose your hair. You don’t need chemotherapy. And people aren’t as sympathetic. In fact, many people are cold and detached when it comes to this battle. They don’t understand it because they can’t physically see it. As I said, some of the symptoms are similar. I’m still exhausted. I’m still terrified. I’m still emotionally drained. And sometimes I even feel defeated. Anxiety, I haven’t beaten you yet, but I’m working on it. To those of you who are facing a battle like this, you’re not alone. You matter, too. Your pain is real and it is raw. No one can tell you that it’s not. For those of you who are fighting this type of battle, this article is for you. This story is for you. Because cancer patients matter, and so do mental health patients. We all encounter hardships. It’s not about which battle is harder, but about seeing each other through the battle. Loving, listening, caring, embracing, supporting.  

Six (or so) months ago, I realized how serious my anxiety had gotten. I was petrified by the fear that I was going to find a lump somewhere on my body that would take me right back to the chemo chair. I didn’t want to face cancer again. I literally felt crippled by my extreme fear of death, dying, cancer. I’m so young! There’s so much life to live. I want to have children. I want to raise them. I want to grow old with my husband. It wasn’t until I found myself in the bathroom of a tire shop, splashing cold water on my face, and looking at myself in the mirror that I realized I couldn’t handle this on my own. “You are okay. Breathe. You are fine.” I tried to console myself. The day before I had been to the doctor to get a mole looked at. They sent it off to be tested, and I was just waiting to hear back. Oh the ole waiting game, how I’ve missed you. NOT. The process was sending my mind into overload. I was having thoughts, horrible thoughts, that the mole was going to be cancerous. I was going to have to be treated again. Or maybe worse. Maybe this time I was going to die. I walked out of the bathroom, thinking I had calmed myself down enough. I was wrong. Suddenly my legs were numb, my face was burning hot, and my breath was becoming short. I felt warm, almost as if I had peed on myself. Something wasn’t right. I began to approach one of the employees when God intervened. He told me to say these words out loud: “Fear not.” I said it. Again and again I said it. People in that tire shop probably thought I had lost my mind, but I didn’t care. “Fear not. Fear not. Fear not.” I could breathe again. The feeling in my legs came back. I mustered up the strength to find a seat and then to call Kyler at work to tell him that he needed to come right away. I didn’t know what was happening, but I needed help. This was the moment that I realized God was still holding me, carrying me, and now He was encouraging me to seek help. I couldn’t do it alone anymore. It wasn’t until later that I was diagnosed with PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had just survived my first panic attack. PTSD is commonly associated with those who have served in war, an internal and external battle that several of us cannot remotely imagine. I know I can’t, but I have the utmost respect for those in that particular battle. PTSD also takes hold of others as well, people who have undergone extremely traumatic situations. Cancer was my situation and PTSD had entered my life without me even knowing it.

Now some people were understanding of this, but some were not. Those phrases that I began my article with are all phrases that people have said to me when I tried to reach out and explain my situation. People who have undermined my thoughts, disregarded my feelings, and taken away my voice. I felt silly, insignificant, like a whiny baby. On the outside I appeared normal, but I was miserable on the inside. My body was fighting me at my very core, and I became the loneliest I had ever been. And that’s saying something because I thought being an eighteen-year-old cancer patient was lonely. PTSD/anxiety was like nothing I had ever experienced.

So where am I now? How did I face my demons? Thankfully, I always had my momma. She understood, she just got me. I could call mom and she would cry with me. We had lost her mom, my Gammy, to cancer just last year. Fear and anxiety has riddled my family due to cancer’s grip, but don’t worry. We’re still fighting. Kyler, my husband, is a man of logic. He was constantly encouraging me by showing me that I was okay. He would hold me in his arms, and explain to me why I was alive, why I’m here. That there is a purpose. He provided love, reassurance, and a gentle spirit that I desperately needed. My God, my constant. He gave me the words to say, the thoughts to think, and the hope when I had none. He was and is always present, even when I do my best to kick Him to the side. He wrecks the insecurities and instills the power of vulnerabilities. He makes His presence known, when I start to forget. For that, I’m thankful.

What do they all have in common? They took time for me. They want to see me smile. That is why I’m writing this blog. Anxiety, PTSD, depression, and mental illness deserve the days off work, the strong support system, the compassion, grace, and empathy. The people who face these challenges are people too. Their burdens are heavy, and their spirits are worn. They are broken and they are hurting. And guess what? They need you.  So readers, don’t ever turn your back on someone that is crying out. Listen to them, think on what they are saying, and then formulate a response that is rooted in deep and authentic care. And to the readers who have tried crying out and seeking help, and received nothing in return but a scoff, you are not alone. Never, ever, ever alone. Don’t let anyone look at you in the eyes and say, “Just get over it.” Don’t walk away defeated like I did. Hold your head up high and know that you are do the very best you effing can. That’s what matters. People who disregard others do so because they don’t understand. Find people who understand. Cling to to them, cling to your God and repeat after me. “Fear not. Fear not. Fear not.” Because it’s not that your fears don’t matter, it’s that you’re becoming an overcomer of your fears. I love you, dear ones. 

 

 

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Suffer Alongside Me: A letter to the addict and the cancer patient

If you’ve been on Facebook you might have seen a video that has been circulating recently. This video shows what appears to be a teenage boy, laying in a hospital bed with cancer. His parents are also in the room, as they begin to yell at him over, what they believe, are poor decisions that he’s inflicted upon himself. The boy begins to cry, as his mother grows increasingly angry. She says things to him such as, “This is his fault!” and “You won’t ever be anything!” She calls him weak and demands that he gets up. The video ends with a posing question: “What if we treated people with cancer the way we treat people with addiction?” I need to be honest. At first, I was confused by the message that this campaign was trying to convey. I didn’t understand the comparison they were making. Cancer is not addiction. I still stand by this statement. As many of you know, I fought and won my own battle against cancer four years ago. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 2A. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation. I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and my confidence. Then two and a half years later, I lost so much more because of cancer. I lost my go-to gal, my Gammy (my grandmother). It’s because of her and her influence in my life that this next thing I’m going to say has to be heard.

Addiction is not the same as cancer, but the human-being that suffers from addiction is just as important. I say suffer because I suffered too. So did Gammy. So do many of us while we find ourselves here on earth, in our temporary bodies. I recognize that addiction is serious, it is a disease, and it is life-threatening. I understand that each person’s story of addiction and its impact is vastly different from the next. In some instances, a person’s addiction is caused by external influences, influences they cannot prevent. I would never, ever want to down-play that. In fact, it wouldn’t even be fair for me to do so. I have no idea what someone with addiction has experienced, but I do know what pain feels like and I know what fighting feels like. We’re all going to suffer, so why are we comparing our sufferings? Why aren’t we instead reaching out in love to those who are right now, in this very moment, hurting? It’s not about which one of us is hurting more; it’s about helping one another heal.

So now I want to pose a new question to you. Rather than, “What if we treated people with cancer the way we treat people with addiction?” How about:

“What if we treated people the way Jesus treated people?”

What if we viewed them as people, as individuals, who are in dire need of love, grace, and empathy? Instead of seeing the addict or the cancer patient, the Jew or the Gentile, we saw Cassidy, Jenn, Mike, and Lisa? Their needs matter, they matter. What if we stopped categorizing them, and rather began to identify with them? Suddenly it’s not about the label, but about the person. The person who Christ died for. The person who is inevitably going to suffer here, but understands they’re not suffering alone. After all, isn’t that the purpose of the cross? To know that even in our weakest moments, when the pain is crippling and unbearable, He took on the cross. He did it for all of us. 1 John 3:16 says, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Your brother or sister might be someone who is facing addiction, or maybe it’s cancer. Either way, they need you. Set aside your assumptions, and exemplify love. I’m not talking about the hoity toity stuff. I’m talking about a radical and deep sort of love. The love that erases the labels, and embraces the individual.

So unlike the mother from the video of the boy suffering from addiction. You will never hear the words, “You won’t ever be anything!” come from my mouth. In fact, I want you to know that you are everything. You are everything to the God who created you. When you are weak, you are everything. When you can’t get up, you are everything. When you find yourself in a time of suffering, you are everything. No disease can take that away from you.

Love always,

Cassidy

Sunflower
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8
Gamy
My forever best friend.
Grace

A letter to the girl who faked having cancer…

To the girl who faked having cancer, I need to tell you something.

First of all, I’m not mad at you. But I do have a confession to make. I was mad at you, and I was very mad at you. You see, cancer is not a joke to me. It’s not something I take lightly. It’s not an outlet to make money. It’s not a way to get attention. And you know what else it isn’t; it’s not curable. Let me show you what cancer is.

 

 

Cancer is the day you decide enough is enough. You’re shaving it, because you’re deciding when it’s time. Cancer’s not calling the shots today.

cancer

Cancer is smiling with someone who loves you unconditionally. Someone who would take all of the pain, the illness, the disease upon himself if it meant I was cured. Someone who kisses your forehead, rubs your feet, brings you anything you can get down, and just sits while you soundly sleep the days away. Cancer doesn’t destroy love. Love perseveres.

Cancer sucks!

Cancer is flaunting your new “hairdo” and hat, because you don’t always feel pretty without it. Your beautiful locks are no longer, but you fight for your confidence. You fight for your health and your future. Cancer is seeing the light in such a harsh and ugly disease. It doesn’t define you. YOU are a beautiful ray of sunshine amidst the darkness. YOU will win this battle.

Me and my wig

Cancer is jumping for joy, because chemo is over! Hooray!

Free of chemo!

Cancer is looking up. Looking up and seeing the God who saw you through it all. Cancer is smiling because you can’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of peace that there’s a God who suffered a surpassing amount for me. This God knows my weaknesses and my pain and says, “I’m here. I know it hurts, but I’m here.” He suffered beside me and with me and I look to Him with the biggest smile. This smile is for You, Lord. Thank You for Your presence and guiding me straight to remission.

Me

Cancer is something else, too. It’s a terrible disease. It’s a disease that took my best friend Home. I witnessed her body grow weaker, her voice grow tired, her pain become excruciating due to cancer. I saw her hair fall out, then grow back, then fall out again. But I also saw a strength that I can’t put into words. Gammy’s strength was powerful and moved myself and many others to believe again. We had to believe in Eternity where we would get to hug her, kiss her, and laugh with her. We had to believe it wasn’t really goodbye; her sweet soul would soon greet us at the Holy Gates. Cancer doesn’t have a single hold on Heaven.

 

 

To the girl who faked cancer, I forgive you and I’m sorry. In fact, I forgive you because I’m sorry. What do I mean by this? I mean that I forgive you because I’m so sorry that whatever your circumstances and wherever you are in life has led you to faking cancer. I’m so sorry that somewhere along the way you became lost and broken. I’m sorry that you’re hurting. I’m sorry that your life hasn’t been touched by the Holy Spirit, and that you’re out there searching for something you just haven’t quite found. My prayer for you is that you find it and you find it in Him. Jesus is where the lost are found and where the broken are healed, and I pray He does that for you. Somewhere along the way someone has failed you, someone like me. Someone who had the chance to tell you about the love of a Savior, but didn’t. And now here you are, still searching. I’m so deeply sorry and I forgive you. Will you forgive me?

The last thing I want to say to you is this: I love you. I love the heck out of you! I hope you know that. You’re special to me and I will continue to pray for you and your journey. You can overcome this and prosper, I promise. Open your heart and mind to change, because it’s coming. In the mean time, I’m not mad at you, I forgive you, I’m sorry, and I love you. 

With love and blessings,

The girl who didn’t fake cancer