I am afraid.

The fear is linked to the CT scan I took on Thursday–in turn linked to my three experiences with cancer. In August 2013, Dr. Paul Russo (at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center in New York City) removed a 7 centimeter tumor surrounding my right kidney. Pathology confirmed kidney cancer.

While discussing the forthcoming surgery, Dr. Russo said his plan to save the right kidney (which he did expertly) would remove the risk that I might be without any kidneys at all. He explained that two small tumors on my left side could develop and conceivably destroy my left kidney.


Last year, the left kidney tumors were 2 centimeters. Between then and now, have they increased in size? Last year, my doctors suggested after right kidney surgery, perhaps surgery and even chemotherapy might be indicated for my left side.

The CAT scan on Thursday will help determine what to do next.

This reality above is not the reason I am writing. Fear is the reason I am writing. Fear.

Suzhou_Humble_Administrator's_GardenThe advice given ranges from:

  • It is reasonable to worry; do not worry about worrying
  • Do not worry about what might happen; focus on the here and now

Advice be damned: The dominant reality of my daily life is fear.


I was married once to a woman who poured salt over everything she ate. Everything she ate tasted like salt.

For the past few months I have been pouring fear over everything I eat; everything I eat tastes like fear. This imagery extends to everything I do. The fear creates a paralysis—work incomplete, dishes unwashed, the bathroom sink unscrubbed.

The two rules of my treatment plan (whether or not there is a treatment plan) must be:

  1. Learn to live with fear
  2. Figure out how to eliminate fear

According to Eastern thought, in the battle with Evil one must not confront Evil directly. I am certain Confucius is correct, but it sounds strange. Given my personality doing something strange with a good objective in mind is appropriate.

I wonder how I will proceed.

This posting is the beginning of a battle plan.


Note 1: Fear and Evil are one and the same.

Note.  2: Despite my “advice be damned” remark I really do appreciate advice.


–Joel Solkoff, State College, PA, USA

Copyright 2014 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

2 replies on “Fear”

I would also be afraid. I think some of that would be a completely sensible fear, real and animal and in many ways innocent. But some would be a fear of society. Not so clean.

We hope for good deaths, and we hope not to die, at least until we no longer care to live.

But we so rarely get what we hope for. I will wish for good luck for you.

Since you ask for advice, here’s some. You identify Fear and Evil, but they are different. Evil is an abstract principle, not part of you. But Fear is an emotion that is part of you. Because the things you fear (cancer, pain, death) are outside your conscious control, you treat the Fear itself as if it were the same. But it is not. Fear is a thought, and you can control your thoughts, with practice, by identifying and naming them as they arise (which they do in a blameless stream) and setting them aside. This takes practice, but it works.

Dhammapada says, verse 1: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts.” In your very vivid image you say that Fear, like salt, makes everything taste salty because you “have been pouring salt over everything.” Perhaps you remember being in love, when we pour love over everything and think only of our beloved; remember St. Lyndon Johnson, peace be upon him, who thought only of power, and everything tasted of power to him. This is what happens if you allow your thoughts to cover your whole mind. It is their nature, but it hides our nature, which is discernable between our thoughts.

So my advice is: stop treating your Fear like an uncontrollable environment, like snow in a snowstorm, and begin the slow, repetitive process of identifying, naming, and putting them aside. “Fear arising,” you must say, each time. “I recognize Fear, back again. Such a nuisance.” And then let it go, until the next time it arises. Perhaps it will arise again in a few seconds. Repeat the process. Gradually your mind will, become less salty.

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