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No Fear

by Erin PhillipsSurvivor, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaNovember 17, 2021View more posts from Erin Phillips

There’s a tattoo inscribed on my side.

It has today’s date –

September 14th


Twenty years ago.

Underneath the date are two words written in beautiful cursive

No. Fear.

I don’t know why I followed that date with that phrase.

But as it turns out those two words would be the lessons I had yet to learn.


“No” is one of the first words we learn as children.

No means stop.

Disagree. Wrong. Negative.

In other words, No is a boundary.

Parameters. A period. Cold stop.

Having personal boundaries comes with knowing yourself.

Knowing who you are at your very core, beyond all that superficial bullshit we learn in life.

And I didn’t know who the fuck I was and didn’t have any of those things called boundaries.

I let life happen to me and smiled my way through it.


Now the second word –


That’s a powerful one.

I believe it’s the very thing that was coursing through my veins on that September 14th morning.

And I believe it found its way into my body in my earliest days of existence.

The doctors called it cancer.

And they flushed my body with medicines strong enough to rush me to the brink of death so that I could survive.

And 26 months later, right on schedule, they declared me cancer free.


But no one taught me about the fear.

So I continued to live with it.

Not knowing there was another way.

The fear wrapped itself around me while I refused to eat for months and begged my mom to let me go.

The fear shoved its hand over my mouth while my father stripped away the innocence of my soul.

The fear disguised itself as a cheap glass of whiskey,

men whose names I never knew,

and that van door that I never stepped outside of to begin my new job and new life on the other side of the world.


The fear again had gotten too great.

I silently wished for the familiarity of a hospital bed.

I would take all the vomiting. I would take all the headaches. I would take all the pain.

I would take it all again.

To be cured.

To be saved.


But no one can save you from yourself.

So it took the pain and the fear becoming too great for me to get to where I am right now.

Learning to choose love for myself.

In every moment.

And it is the single most difficult path I have ever walked.


I have a lot to learn about No and about Fear.

I have even more to learn about Love.

I’m learning every damn day.

I can’t go back to that little girl 20 years ago and save her.

But I can talk to the part of her that still lives in me.

I can help her paint with the tears of her sadness

and let the screams of her anger unleash through my voice.

What no one helped her feel safe enough to do was feel the full extent of her feelings.

To help her understand that what we ignore within us doesn’t go away.

To teach her that those voices in her head came from thoughts, and that thoughts can be changed.

That the heart holds the truth.

To teach her that the most important relationship she would ever have was the one with herself, and that it should be cherished and guarded like those beautiful places in the far away depths of the alpine tundras, glacial lagoons, and sandstone canyons.

But I get to teach her all of that now.

As I step into love myself.

We can only teach what we know.

We are all sons and daughters.

And unfortunately most of our parents and the generations before them were plagued by some degree of fear that got passed down

through a critical remark, words not said, or a lack of belief in their own self-worth and beauty.

They were all doing the best they could with what they were taught.


The two beautiful women I am living with now are teaching me about the choice between love and fear.

And that’s just the thing.

It’s a choice.

Which is the most liberating and most humbling experience to hold yourself 100% accountable for that choice.

So here’s to choosing love.

And here’s to choosing life.

And moving forward into the next 20 years with No Fear.

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