Cancer-Surviving Commitment-Phobe

I'll go ahead and put it out there. I'm afraid of commitment. Well -- not major commitments. I am married. We pay a monthly mortgage. And we adopted a baby.

I can handle the "typical" types of big commitments.

But it's what most consider minor events that really illuminate my struggle with committing to things or people in advance.

The RSVP to an occasion planned months away. The non-refundable plane tickets. The five-year career plans. The home maintenance investments that will pay off "in the end." Sometimes, it's even setting dinner plans within the next week.

Lately, it's a promise I made to run a 10K with my friend... and an upcoming opportunity this September. A commitment to train for the next eight weeks has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone I might need a map to find my way back.

I know it might sound silly.

But to this cancer survivor whose fought the disease twice over the past 12 years and spent more nights in the hospital than some my age have ever stayed in a hotel, it makes perfect sense to me.

And it all starts with the "C" word. Nope, not cancer. Control.


My sense of control was taken the night my parents came up to my workplace and let me know my test results showed I had cancer. Standing in the middle of a library where I'd worked my first job, suddenly my world didn't feel so teenage anymore.

No longer could I care most about grades, boys and looking cute in cut-offs. I had a new set of worries to think about.

None of which I asked for.

I was thrust into a world where like it or not, it was "life or death." I learned a harsh reality: We don't really have any control over our lives.

And I just happened to learn the lesson about five decades earlier than most.


While you'd think this lesson gave me an advantage in life, it's actually a double-edged sword.

I can accept that I don't have control when it comes to the big things. Like I said -- I had no problem marrying my man or saying yes to the opportunity to adopt my baby girl. Nobody knows what to expect when you make a big life-long commitments like that.

But, it's the small stuff that comes up that makes me hesitate; the stuff that makes me feel like I do have a little control sometimes. I typically manage my calendar. I choose whether or not to exercise. I can make a plan and set career goals.

What I fear though is uncontrollably having my life disrupted again.

What if a scan comes back and puts me back into cancer treatment and I can't make an event? What about when the small bowel obstruction lands me in the hospital for a few days and I can't go on the trip? What if my next colonoscopy indicates another surgery is needed and I can't end up running the race?

So I straddle the fence. Drag my feet at making the plans. Wait until the last minute. And pray that the "what ifs" don't come true.


Over the years I've received much advice about overcoming fears.

Naming them and recognizing what causes my near-heart attacks has brought the most relief. Casting off burdens and keeping my faith has helped me see that although I can be a commitment-phobe sometimes, I don't have to be.

Although it's a struggle, it doesn't have to define me. I can conquer it.

Like today when I opened up the email my friend sent about the upcoming 10K with the gentle nudge, "I'm ready when you are" attached to it.

I let the wave of anxiety pass and then clicked on the Register button. I then got with my trainer to get a running schedule in place for the next eight weeks.

I even plugged it into my phone so I get a reminder to run each day.

Although I never gave my friend a firm "yes," I think she's gotten the hint. I forwarded her the receipt showing I'm paid in full and signed up for the race. She sent me her confirmation receipt a few hours later.

I'm committed and come September, I'll be ready to run. Who knows -- maybe I'll do one in October, too.