I have a family history of cancer. My mom died of breast cancer, and her dad died of prostate cancer. I was convinced that I would inevitably get cancer as well, and that I would probably die of it. I knew that I must have one of those cancer genes I’d heard about that skyrocket the chances. My doctor suggested a DNA test and I was horrified at the very idea. More bad news? No thanks.
Fast forward to earlier this year, when 23andme was having an incredible sale on their DNA test. I decided to purchase one in spite of the fact that the very idea filled me with dread. I figured the test would either tell me what I already thought I knew (aka I had some horrible cancer gene) or it would tell me I didn’t and it would be good news. I had prepared myself so thoroughly for the worst that I could take the risk of having the test done.
I got the results a few months ago. I don’t have any of those cancer genes. Not only that, based on my genetics alone, I actually have a lower than average chance of ever getting breast cancer. That’s right, lower than average. While it’s true that there are other risk factors to account for here, my little story of doom collapsed in on itself at this news.
My story is not uncommon. The facts we think we know are not always what is true, and the stronger the fear surrounding an issue, the more likely we are to fail to see clearly. I’m scared of death and especially of dying young, and so it takes very little effort for me to create an entire repertoire of stories to support this possibility. Unfortunately, these fears create visions of the world that can hold us back and cause great unhappiness. They keep us living in some imaginary wasteland instead of enjoying the present.
Fear of failure is another one I see all the time. “Oh, I can’t possibly write a novel. I can’t possibly travel to a foreign country. I can’t possibly have a happy romantic relationship with a partner who respects me. I can’t open my own business or find a job I like. I can’t change.” I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
I’m here, not dying young of cancer, to tell you that you can. The scope of human potential is infinite. Yes, you may fail. Yes, I may die young. I’m not willing to let that chance keep me from living now. Are you?