An anxious woman in a dark, spooky forest

Anxious as Dorothy

I tried to hide the tears streaming down my face, but it was too late. I thought my parents would scold me. After all, I was five years old, about to start kindergarten, too old to cry over something that wasn't real. The year was 1961, and we were watching a movie on our black and white television.

Lessons from the Wizard of Oz

My dad smiled, nudged me, and said, "I've seen this movie two or three times. Dorothy gets away from that witch every time."  My mother said, "Look what the tinman is going to do! He's been carrying an ax the whole time so they can chop down the castle's door. Good thing he came along!"

The movie, of course, was The Wizard of Oz. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) made the film in 1939. Even with today's advanced technology, I don't believe anyone could outdo Margaret Hamilton as the wicked witch of the west or Judy Garland as Dorothy. I have read that Judy Garland warned her children the first time they saw the movie on television. Judy called long-distance to tell her children that their mama was okay, not surrounded by flying monkeys. She knew what powerful visuals the film used.

As blood cancer patients, we might feel as anxious as Dorothy about what is happening to our bodies. Will the chemo make me sick? What if I get so exhausted I collapse while out in public? How will my life end? Will I flop around like a fish out of water in my bed trying to breathe?

Own your feelings

Recognize and understand your anxiety. Say, "My nervous system is working overtime today. I am worried about _______." Some people might say, "Oh, you shouldn't feel that way!" But, how do they know how you should feel? Don't criticize yourself for your anxious feelings. Instead, feel what you need to feel.

The Bible tells us to pray about everything. I often write my anxious thoughts down. As I look over my list, I ask, do I have good reason to think something will go wrong? Is there a chance that I am overly worried? On a scale of 1-10, how likely is the thing I am concerned about is going to happen?

Remember, you can still function while being anxious. Just like our energy levels, we have to pace ourselves. Don't worry too much in one day! I often remind myself that I have a lot of people, events, and circumstances in my life that make me feel more grateful than anxious.

Distract your anxiety

Distract yourself with activities. For me, volunteering for Meals on Wheels and Centenarians of Oklahoma keeps my mind off of blood cancer. As the Meals on Wheels motto goes, "When you do good, you feel good."

Do something

What about hobbies? Do you like to draw, paint or play an instrument? Find a calming activity. Do you have enough energy to make some simple home improvements? After I  retired, I set a goal to sell, donate or trash one item out of my house weekly. I can't believe that I still find things to rehome after almost five years! That's 52 items gone by the end of each year!

Sharing is caring!

Share your anxiety with a friend you trust. Schedule a time to talk. Most likely, you will feel better. Reconnect with an old friend. You can never have too many friends. We never know how people are struggling. Maybe you are in the same boat with a similar health problem. If your stress interferes with how you function, talk to your doctor.

Isolation makes me feel anxious. I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). MDS is a rare blood cancer because the bone marrow is not producing blood cells correctly. I have met only one man in person who had MDS. That was at MD Anderson in 2017. (I have often wondered how he did.) Fortunately, the MDS Foundation, Facebook groups, and have helped me connect with some good folks learning how to manage their MDS.

Anxiety Schedule

Put your anxiety on a schedule. Pray first, do your best, and let God do the rest. Then, be like Scarlett O'Hara and remember what she said in Gone with the Wind. "I'll think about that tomorrow." Another great film made by MGM studios, also produced in 1939! It must have been a good year for movies.

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