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on guard

Fear and Worry. I’ve spent a good deal of my life suspended in these states of feeling. Though I’m not one to  size up the “fairness” of my life experiences with those of other people’s lives, I think I can say that I’ve had my share of the kind of experiences that invite Fear and Worry to drop in and stay around a while. Over time, they have become permanent fixtures in my personality–elements I’ve had to learn how to manage, understand, and even embrace at times.

My mother, at only 53 years of age, died from neuroendocrine cancer on November 12, 2009. She fought a vicious battle with her disease for 8 months before she died. It was, as you can imagine, it was a life-changing experience for me. I learned many bittersweet lessons through her ordeal and death, one of which helped me in my own ongoing struggle with Fear and Worry. I understood how sick she was, and although I did not allow myself to give up hope, I also knew that she would not survive. I made a conscious decision to  not allow myself to surrender too much of my energy to Fear and Worry, because to do so would have meant that I would not have had the energy I needed to focus on the time I had left with her. I simply could not allow my fears of her impending death, nor my worries about how I could possibly live my life without her, to consume the time we had left together to watch the hummingbirds come and go, to listen to the loons sing their haunting song, and to make memories. This is not to say that I never felt worried or afraid; I cried myself to sleep nearly every night, and never got through a day without breaking down. It just means that I made a decision to keep on living alongside her, and to surrender only when there truly was no other choice.

After her death, Fear and Worry came out full-force and have triggered a significant struggle inside me these many months. One of my most significant worries has been that I, myself, might fall sick and leave my young children behind. And running a close second, has been the fear and worry that something horrible would happen to my children. My desperate wishing to have my mother by my side and in my ear had never, ever been so intense as it was in those early hours of Madeline’s diagnosis and treatment. I like to think she was there, in the way that she could be, and that it was her who aligned the events that saved my daughter’s life.

Madeline’s diagnosis has, of course, left me practically drowning in Fear and Worry at times. I use the lessons learned from my mom’s experience every single day: do not give Fear and Worry about diabetes too much energy, for I need it to help my daughter and  my family to rebalance and lead as healthy a life as possible. But oh, it is a difficult task. It’s worst in the middle of the night, when Fear and Worry convince me that Madeline might be having a low while she is sleeping, and won’t wake up again. Maybe that’s the silver lining: certainly, there is no way that Fear and Worry will ever allow me to sleep deeply again, but instead will drive me to Madeline’s beside armed with the lancet and glucometer, just to make sure she’s okay.


About Heather Garcia Queen

I am… a mother of 3 spectacular children. A wife of an architect extraordinaire. An MSW. A psychologist in an elementary school. A (wishful) writer. A protector of family and spirit. A worshipper of the natural world. A seeker of knowledge. A lover of the arts. An introvert. A silver-lining kind of girl.


4 thoughts on “on guard

  1. Funny how…I was kind of opposite. I was just talking about this today on my 7 mile run with a buddy. I have a vivid memory of sharing with a friend literally a week or two before Joe’s diagnosis that my life was “too good”…that I was “waiting for the other shoe to drop”…then enter “D” into a 3 year old Joe’s life…and my dad croaked two months after Joe’s diagnosis…I was a wreck for a long time…well, not a wreck…more like “numb”.

    My life is feeling a little too good to be true again…makes me nervous.

    Sorry to hear about your mom. It sounds like you handled it with incredible maturity. That must have been hard.

    Posted by Reyna | 03/27/2011, 2:05 am
  2. It is so very challenging to keep fear and worry from taking over.

    I’m sorry to hear about your mother. What a painful experience. But kudos to you for making the most of your remaining time with her. Surely, she appreciated that.

    Posted by Heidi | 03/27/2011, 6:19 am
  3. I lost my father to heart disease two years before Lia’s diagnosis. I share much of your grief, your worry, and fears, but mostly I’m just sad that he isn’t around to be there for Lia and us all. Sometimes I get angry about it — he didn’t take good care of himself; other times, I wonder how his life might have been different had she had diabetes when he was still alive. Would he try harder to be healthier and happier? Would he care more? Would he be less selfish? These are answers I will never know, but every now and then when I sit and think about my love for my daughter, I hear his voice in my own words and thoughts and I find some comfort. Sorry to have you on this kind of journey with us. It is hard and sad and quite honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, but you are not alone and that is something that we all can take comfort in.


    Posted by Steve | 03/29/2011, 6:26 pm
  4. “Whereas I am typically a person who profusely apologizes for every little inconvenience I might cause others, this time around I really did not care.”—ha! Too true.

    Posted by Katy | 03/24/2012, 12:03 am

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Creative Commons License
This work by Heather Garcia Queen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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