October Chills {when life is terrifying}

What do you do when life is scary? When a deep crises hits? When the feared diagnosis is your new reality? If you are facing the worst, you are not alone.

It’s fitting that October is breast cancer awareness month, don't you think? Ghosts and ghouls lurking in grocery store windows. Oversized spiders and spooky skeletons dangling on front doors. Creepy movies, haunted houses. Breast cancer. Scary stuff.

And it still strikes me as odd that October is the month I was diagnosed with breast cancer, just three short years ago. Throw in a daily barrage of news reports on terrorism, infectious disease, an unstable economy, victims of crime, sudden disasters and freak accidents and we’re left with a pretty frightening world, with or without Halloween. Is it me, or does life sometimes feel less like a journey and more like minefield? Getting through the day without an explosion is the goal. To make matters worse, our loved ones are roaming around in this minefield, too. It’s becoming too easy to live in fear. I hate that. Here’s how I’m fighting it.

Unplug...or at least cut back.

It’s important to know what’s happening; sticking our heads in the sand won’t make the world a safer, happier place. But twenty-four hour cable news and constant access to social media is making us all a little nutty. Those tiny machines that place the world at our fingertips are incredibly addicting, but they have the power to get us down. I want my home to be a safe refuge from the craziness, not a front row seat to every horrific event, scary image and awful news story taking place on the planet.

Keep the big picture in mind.

I know it’s bad, and I'm tempted to believe that it's worse now than ever. It very well could be. I’m pretty sure those who faced the devastation of Bubonic Plague, the cruelty of the Crusades, or the suffering of either of our world wars would vote their time in history as the most dismal. The plain truth is that we live in a fallen world. Sin existed yesterday as much as it does today and will still be around tomorrow. Praise you God for sending your Son, the Savior we so desperately need.

Choose a distraction.

Another way to fight fear is to get busy. For the past few months, my friend Karen, a fellow breast cancer survivor, has been training for the upcoming three-day, sixty-mile Susan G. Komen event in San Diego. She’s raised over $5,000 and organized a golf tournament to garner even more support. Karen doesn’t have time to sit around being fearful of cancer because she’s too busy inspiring other women to fight. Fear has a way of rudely barging into the forefront of our minds; engaging in something purposeful is a powerful way to shove back.

Remember who wins.

There’s no way around it, it’s a broken world and bad things happen. But we don’t have to live in fear because in the end the bad stuff doesn’t win. Knowing the Lord means we win. He carries us through it, whatever your “it” may be... a devastating loss, a health crisis, a severed relationship, money issues, a rebellious kid, a crushing disappointment, and on and on and on... And when this life is through, we get heaven. That’s what I call winning.

I’m grateful beyond my wildest dreams that God carried me through my cancer. It’s given me the confidence to know He will carry me through the next bad thing that comes my way, and the next bad thing that comes yours. Maybe not in the precise way or time or circumstance we would like or want or think we need, but the best. His best, which is our best, too. Sharing this message of encouragement with newly diagnosed women who are as terrified as I once was has become a great privilege in my life. Weird, even with the ghosts and ghouls, October no longer gives me the chills. It just doesn’t seem that scary anymore.


Kathryn O'Brien

Kathryn O'Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She's published five children's picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and free-lances for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. Visit Kathryn at kathobrien.com.