Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his diary during his trips into the wilderness, "There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid, but by acting as if I was not afraid, I gradually ceased to be afraid." This is effective, but it takes forcefully averting one's mind from frightening thoughts. But it is works provided it is only an act for temporary survival and not a disguise for denial..

William Wallace, the Scotsman with the blue painted face immortalized by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart rallied his 13th century Scottish Highlanders against the tyrannical English by reminding them that, "a life lived in fear is no life at all", that they all would die one day, but to succumb to fear is to give up your freedom and without that you may as well be dead already. Cancer uses fear to steal your freedom and your life long before it takes your body. Muster courage, and when you can't, fake it. That is a good strategy to have in your repertoire – at least in a pinch but only for the short term. There is a better long term strategy


 My niece, Julie, taught us all something about how to deal with fear last summer when we were climbing Mt. Rainier. Family tradition dictates that when the kids reach 16, they can join the family rope team up the glaciers. She was a cute, vivacious kid with braces and huge brown eyes, a stark contrast to the strapping brutes that preceded her. Sons, nephews and dads all rallied to give Julie a shot at the summit. She was harnessed up and roped in to climb through the one AM darkness on a precipitous route that serpentined around crevasses, below grand seracs (huge blocks of ice) and over ice bridges on the mountain’s southern flank. A tumult of questions vented her anxiety as we climbed, but never compromised her "can-do attitude" that propelled her and helped hold fear at bay. After summiting at dawn and returning to our tents lower on the Ingram glacier her feelings came tumbling out. "Unc, I was scared the whole time! I always felt as if I was about to fall. Fear of the unknown in the dark is the worst!"

When I asked her how she managed, she responded, "I decided to think about something else. I tried different things. I thought about them in great detail like I was writing an editorial. Thinking about other things didn't really interfere with what I had to do – keep my crampons flat on the ice, feet apart and step, step, step – but those other thoughts left no room for the terror to settle in." Wow – I had to write that down. She wasn’t in control over her circumstances, but she took control of her thoughts!   I had stumbled onto the same thing when I was face-to-face with a grizzly bear in the Yukon; I know it works – at least for the short term. 

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