I have been thinking about what it must be like to be told that you have cancer.

One of my husband's best friends has just told him that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is trying hard to be positive--but I can tell that she is so afraid.

My father was diagnosed with cancer in February. My dad, the man I had always thought of as strong, as invincible, never sounded less so than when he shared the fear of his illness with me--because as most of us know, the words "cancer" and "death sentence" are pretty interchangeable in our minds.

What must it feel like to hear those words?

I went to the doctor's a couple of days ago and got a firsthand taste of the kind of fear that wraps you up and strangles your soul.

I had an abnormal pap smear back in January and had been asked to come in for a follow-up.

A little part of me still thinks that the clinician doing the follow-up was trying to scare me into quitting smoking--a habit I am really trying hard to break.

Anyway, she told me that some of the cells discovered in my last Pap Test were abnormal; and that as a smoker, I was in a high risk category--for cervical cancer. The follow-up in my case, was to determine whether or not a biopsy was indicated.

Excuse me?

I'm only 44 years old. I have little kids. I have a long life ahead of me. I have plans.

So now, 'twixt anxious moments spent checking the calendar & marking the days until I hear something, I wonder:

What if I have cancer?

What will I do if the words "you might", are substituted with the words, "you do"?

What do the 500 women in the US who hear daily "You have Breast Cancer", think? What flashes through their minds? What feelings crawl up out of the muck of fear?

It can't be much worse than the sick, dreadful tangle I have tried to shove into the back of my mind since Wednesday.

Could it?