The World of Fear and the World of Love
By Lara Noik a"h
Overview: Lara Noik a"h describes the two kinds of worlds you may find yourself in once diagnosed with cancer but advocates to rather choose the world of love.

A sage old man gathered a group of soldiers after a gruelling war and told them this: “We live in two worlds. The first is the world of fear. This is a world of ‘me’, a world full of my worries, fears, and anxieties. ‘You’ and ‘us’ don’t exist in this world. It’s a state of mind where we turn inwards and constantly, often relentlessly, focus on our own pain and suffering. It’s a lonely place to be.”

“But there is a second world. The world of love. A world where giving and sharing flourishes. A world where you step out of the ‘me’ narrative and allow space outside of yourself to think of others, to reach out for help and to reach out to help.” 

I’ve always loved this concept, never so much as through my cancer journey, my own personal gruelling war. A cancer diagnosis can be extremely terrifying. It’s completely natural to find yourself catapulted into the world of fear. What does this diagnosis mean for me? Will I survive? How will I cope? You can find yourself spending many nights grappling with unanswered (and unanswerable) questions and feelings of dread and despair. When we are in this state of mind, the well-meaning people around us can seem far away from the pain of our reality, and we may feel a deep sense of isolation. But there is a whole other world available to us. 

My world of love

What could the world of love mean to a person with cancer? This is a personal question and may be answered by each person through their own journey. Here are some things that were helpful for me:

  • Allowed people into my story, in a time and way that felt comfortable to me. I did my best to welcome the support that was offered, even when it was at times presented in a clumsy and awkward manner. 
  • Joined online support forums. There are many women like me out there. They rant. They share. They joke. And, most importantly, they live. I was not alone.
  • Reached out to survivors. I reached out to these brave women for all sorts of things. What is the best sleeping position after surgery? How do I cope with nausea? When will my hair grow back? And with each answer came the message: I get you. I’ve been there. You’ve got this. 

Sisterhood of breast cancer

And now, in my world of love, I’m privileged to get to share my experience with others. Be it through writing, talking, or counselling, I reach out. I offer a space where someone else can talk, rant, cry and ask their questions.

I’m not sure if there is a better example of the world of love than the sisterhood of breast cancer. We too are soldiers who have shared trenches, lost fighters on the battlefield, and celebrated victories. 

As human beings, our most basic psychological needs are for connection, safety, security, and proximity. This doesn’t change with a cancer diagnosis. On the contrary, these needs intensify. We seek deeper connections and develop an empathy and compassion beyond what we had before. 

I don’t want to be prescriptive. I believe that each person’s journey is tailor-made for them. There is a time for solitude and a time to reach out. I also know how easy and human it is to slip in and out of each world. 

Yet, even in times of fear and loneliness, we can remind ourselves that there may be another way. Another world. A world of togetherness and a world of love. A world where one can reach out for help and to help. A world with a beautiful message: I get you. I’ve been there. You’ve got this.

Originally published here

Lara Noik a"h
In her short 42 years of life Lara a"h accomplished more than most do in a full lifetime. She worked as head social worker for the Chevrah Kadisha in Johannesburg for 7 years before starting her own successful private practice with a special interest in the fields of mental health, resilience, and relationships. She utilised an integrative approach incorporating the principles of innate mental health, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and relationship modalities. She believed in the innate resilience that exists within each human being and spent her career counselling individuals, couples, and groups from this standpoint. In addition she also ran the Marriage Prepare Programme for many years, worked at Papillon -a mental health recovery centre, ran online grief groups and was a co- founder of ‘The Ki’, an organisation which offers affordable therapy to the larger Johannesburg Jewish Community.