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  • Cynthia Chin-Lee

The FUD Rollercoaster

Updated: Dec 15, 2021






roller coaster Photo by Sandy Torchon from Pexels
There's no denying that having cancer can be a roller coaster ride

Fear, uncertainty, doubt. In my former corporate life, we used to talk about FUD, mostly about layoffs and how that would affect the staff for days and weeks and months. Ironically people who were laid off got certainty, but the survivors would email, instant message, Slack, talk and worry about who would get hit next while we unsuccessfully tried to get work done. In some ways, the laid off were luckier than the survivors. The laid off could pocket a severance package and then move onto the next challenge: finding the next job, changing their careers, starting a business, or perhaps retiring?


I’ve been laid off more times than I care to admit so I know both sides. At the age of 23 I was dismissed from my first job at Clement Chen and Associates where I worked as a junior purchasing agent and part-time interpreter in the early 80s. I was given a week’s notice. Upon hearing the news, I cried in shock and fear, but I came back for the rest of the next week and did my job dutifully.


A job or two later, I was laid off as a senior technical writer at Storage Technology Corporation in Santa Clara in a mass layoff. The first obvious sign management gave us was cancelling donuts on Thursdays. All employees had a required meeting in the cafeteria and 200 people out of the 300 in the company were told to go home. I was one of them.


At Tandem Computers, Sun Microsystems and Oracle, I saw many more layoffs though I mostly survived, only to experience the FUD. And as a manager in 2019 and 2020, I had to give the bad news of layoffs to my two of my own reports.


Having a diagnosis of cancer brings a new level of FUD. My first thought: Who will take care of my family: my husband and son. My daughter, now 32, seems quite able to juggle her career and international travel with some ease, having lived in France, China, the US, and Mexico where she still lives. But my son is just 19 and in his first year of college and my husband, who never liked working outside the home nor the burden of paperwork, has gladly left me the tasks of paying the bills and filing taxes. Who was going to take care of them?


Maybe this was the Universe/the Creator/God telling me to let go and take care of myself for a change? Was this some perverse gift that I needed to seriously examine my life, my diet, and my caretaking role?


Cancer is a serious diagnosis, life-threatening, potentially painful in and of itself, and with invasive treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.


But before I jump there, the nurse navigator told me the good news: you have early stage breast cancer with a high likelihood of survival. Your cancer is estrogen-positive (ER+), progesterone-positive (PR+) and HER-2 negative. For breast cancer patients, that’s the best kind of cancer to have. Although my lobular carcinoma is invasive (meaning it’s spread outside the border of the lobule), it is a moderate/slow-growing cancer that is highly treatable.


Still more FUD. With cancer you learn that there are many unknowns. My own cancer is staged as 1A (not 2, 3, or 4) which sounds good. But I found that staging is guesswork especially for lobular cancer which has a sneaky way of hiding from mammograms in sheets that don’t appear as tumors.


The best metaphor for my new journey with cancer is a roller coaster ride. I am hanging on, white knuckled, tightly grasping the bars and waiting breathless as the car chugs clickety-clack to the next peak where I scream my head off, tears streaming, stomach dropping as the car falls and swerves. The consolation: my family is right here with me and my friends nearby.


And for my FUD? I’ve been meditating for years. I first tried passage meditation as explained by books by Eknath Easwaran (which I recommend) and the Blue Mountain Center for Meditation. I also regularly use the app Headspace. There are lots of free apps, too, which you can explore.

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