Why on earth had I agreed to rappel down the
side of a building?
“Take a deep breath,” my trainer said, smiling
down at me.
I filled my lungs and then slowly let out the
air. Breathe. It was universal advice in every
book on meditation and faith that
I owned. I tried to follow that
suggestion, but my breath stuck.
Get ahold of yourself!
I suddenly remembered why I was
up there, dangling from ropes high in
the sky. I was fund-raising to fight cancer.
I had gathered pledges to raise money
and awareness by rappelling down a
skyscraper in Pittsburgh. I had the
disease myself, after all. In fact,
I’d had it three times, and
I was about to start my
third round of treatment—
Don’t think about that. I
squeezed my eyes shut again.
I gripped tighter on the edge of
the building. I felt fine when I had
stepped onto the ledge—that part was easy.
It was the letting go that was hard because
when you let go, you fall backward.
The rope will hold me, won’t it? That’s what
they taught me in training. So why couldn’t I
loosen my grip? Why couldn’t I just let go?
Fear held me tight in its own grip. I had way
more practice with fear than with letting go.
Fear was my daily habit.
Attack of the Fears
The truth is I wasn’t scared when I first
found the lump. I was at my niece’s birthday
party when I noticed a bulge protruding on
the side of my neck.
“What do you think this is?” I asked my
“I don’t know,” he said as his brow furrowed.
“You better get that checked out.”
I reluctantly made an appointment and
went to my doctor. Yes, I’d been extra
tired in the weeks before, but it
didn’t feel unusual. I was in a good
place. I had just made two big
decisions: I had left my old job
and was about to start a new
one, and I had just broken
up with my boyfriend
after listening to the
voice inside that told
me this guy wasn’t
I was so
proud that I had
consciously decided to
take control of my life and
its direction. I knew exactly what I
I felt ready. Fearless. But little did I know I was
I was in the training session for my new job
when my doctor called yet again. I didn’t want to
miss his third call, so I excused myself and went
out into the hallway to take it.
When you find out you have cancer,
everything slows down just as it does in a
movie. My doctor’s words gripped me. An
awful, clutching fear consumed me. I didn’t hear
anything specific, just words: Chemo. Radiation.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Oncology. I didn’t even
realize I was a sobbing mess until I met the
shocked stares of the other people in my
Okay, God. You got me.
I get it. You’re in charge.