Diem Brown Blogs: Can Fear Kill?

08/09/2012 at 10:35 AM EDT

Diem Brown Blogs, Cancer Treatment, Fear
Diem Brown
Courtesy Diem Brown
In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the second time, opens up about her desire for a child and the ups and downs of cancer and fertility procedures.

If I read something in the past titled "Can Fear Kill?" I would have rolled my eyes at how overly dramatic that statement is but now, I understand the roots beneath those words.

When it comes to heights, it's been well documented on MTV that I'm quite the scaredy cat! However fear has never stopped me, I faced fear in every challenge that included heights – I always jumped!

Here is when fear takes over my rational reasoning.



Following my two successful egg retrievals with Dr. Grifo, my "fear" started thinking/rationalizing, "If I'm doing chemo, then why do I HAVE to remove my last half of my warrior ovary? Why? Why won't the chemo just kill all the cancer? Then when I'm done with chemo, I'll still have part of my ovary left thus my daily life won’t be affected!"

My fear is desperately trying to find a way to rationalize not removing my ovary because I know once it's removed I will start early menopause.

I have so many fears about what this surgery and early menopause will bring:
• Will I feel gutted?
• Will my hair grow in gray after I'm done with chemo?
• How bad are hot flashes?
• Will I feel I've lost part of what makes me a woman?
• Will I mourn that loss?
• Will I feel like a 60-year-old at age 30?
• Will I age faster?
• Will I get arthritis or become prone to strokes?




Why I'm Thinking This Way

I understand that some of my fears above might have you rolling your eyes in disgust and questioning if I have my priorities straight. But in writing this blog, I want to be as real as I can because these are my fears and I know others must have or had these feelings too. If I omitted the fears that I felt wouldn't be "accepted" by all, then I would be cheating those women about to go through early menopause or those who have already been through this by not being honest.

All of the side effects I read about online made my head spin and when the hospital called to change the date of my surgery, I took it as a "sign" that I don't really need my ovary removed.

The irrational decision to leave my remaining ovary in caused my family and loved ones extreme pain and helplessness. I understand the torment of feeling helpless, and it pained me to know that my decision was the cause of so much anxiety for those who care most about me. For that reason, I asked my doctor to explain to me why, why, why is it so important to get that ovary out? I needed to be told I couldn’t leave it in and I needed a factual reason for it.

Driven by Fear

This is when I started to believe that fear does have the power to kill.

My doctor said if the remaining last half of my ovary isn’t removed, then I would have a 50/50 chance that the cancer could come back. Additionally if my cancer returned a third time, the likelihood is that my cancer would not be responsive to chemo.

Not responsive to chemo? That's when my rational mind started body slamming the kicking and screaming fearful girl inside me "Not responsive to chemo? Do you understand what that means you stupid girl? That means death!" 

Even with the mention of death, my inner fearful girl’s rationale is: “Well it’s not 100 percent certain that the cancer would come back – it's 50/50, so technically I could be fine if I left my ovary in.”



Then my doctor threw the next terrifying curve ball: "If you don't hurry with your decision, we’re coming towards the point where your current cancer might become unresponsive to chemo."

Now fear is all around me as I try to muddle through all the information delivered blow by blow to my head. 

I know I have to get my ovary out. End of story. No more lame excuses or insane ways to negate my rational side.

I'm scared of the unknown; I'm scared about how this next surgery and subsequent early menopause will affect me both physically, and more importantly, mentally. I’m scared but I won't let fear dictate my life decisions.  

Moving Forward

As I lift my chin in an attempt to fight back the tears welling up in my now burning eyes, an almost unbearable anxiety builds up in my chest. Fear has taken over and I'm barely able to catch my breath. Going against everything my body is telling me, I forge ahead and email my doctor to proceed with the updated scheduled surgery date. I have committed myself to not give in to fear.



We all deal with fear: fear of failure, fear of relationships ending, fear of infertility, fear of rejection etc., but like I learned with my fear of heights when jumping off the cliff into the water, it's that first leap that is the most daunting and after that, you leave the fall up to gravity.

I'm approaching this surgery like a jump off a cliff. Going into surgery is the daunting jump that has my nerves all frazzled and I’m leaving the "fall" to the skillful doctor's hands and their treatment regimen.

I'm choosing to have faith knowing that whatever the side effects might come from early menopause, there are ways to treat them. I also choosing to have faith that when I'm combated by the mental side effects of feeling "gutted," that my inner "kick booty girl" will surface and slap that nonsense out of me.

In the grand scheme of things, it's better to deal with hurt, pain or fear and fight it than not being in the fight at all.

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