I’ve been told countless times how brave I am. It’s easier for people to call me brave, but what I really hear is “Please God, I don’t ever want it to be me.” I don’t want it to be anyone either. Cancer sucks. If the word ‘sucks’ offends then I apologize, but in the grand design of all things vernacular, there is no other word that perfectly sums up the cancer experience.
I am many things; funny, annoying, passionate, scattered, loving, compassionate, loud, energetic, emotional, dramatic, smart, loyal–but I am not brave. If ever I have had to be faced with confrontation, I run from it. If I have to deal with my own emotions I hide. If I have to do something difficult I procrastinate. On most other days, I am a coward. I have cancer. I am not brave.
Cancer has made me a victim of circumstance. My body is attacking itself. The things that I am going through is just a necessary evil. Anyone else confronted with this disease would do the exact same thing, there are no other options save death. I am not brave.
I have faced this with humour and with a smile, but that is my outward facade. In everything else in life I do the same thing and act the same way. It’s pretend. Inside I am scared, angry, sad, and lonely. I am not brave.
I have had moments of depression where I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to shower, and I don’t want to see people. I am not brave.
I have cried myself to sleep because I have been scared to die. I don’t want to leave my kids or my husband. There are moments in life that I want to see; my kids graduate, my children get married, my grandchildren. Anyone else going through cancer would feel the same things because these desires are in all of us. I am not brave.
I have wrestled with going to treatments because there have been more times when I wanted to give up rather than keep going. But I did what I had to do because otherwise the cancer would take over my body. I am not brave.
I cried when my hair started falling out. I cried when it was cut off. I cried when it had to be shaved because the follicles literally hurt from what little hair I had left. I loved my hair and I didn’t want to lose it, but the treatments made it impossible to keep it. I am not brave.
I have whined and complained over every ache and pain–and people have let me. I have skipped going to social functions and put off normal activities that I had previously enjoyed. I have complained about taking medication and I have been a baby about taking a daily injection. I am not brave.
I have spent hours in different doctors’ examination rooms. I have been poked and prodded. My modesty has been obliterated as many different medical professionals have touched, examined, massaged, and poked my otherwise private areas of my body. I am not brave.
I have spent countless hours having tests done; CT scans, bone scans, echocardiograms, blood tests, MRIs. I would much rather have been at home watching a movie. I am not brave.
I went through surgery to remove a part of my body. Despite what some people have said, having my breast is a part of my identity as a woman. Denying that is simply a lie. And having it removed was the hardest part of all of this. I didn’t want to have the surgery but I had to. The cancer would have ripped through my body and killed me within a year if I didn’t. So instead, a part of my body was taken from me. I am not brave.
Bravery is a choice by someone to confront a difficult circumstance and fight when they could walk away. Cancer doesn’t give you a choice, not really. Fighting the disease is easier because facing death takes more courage and more determination, there is no looking back. And cancer doesn’t change who I am as a person. Having cancer does not automatically make me more likeable, talented or smarter.
Cancer allows me to have more compassion, to be grateful, and to be a little more thoughtful. It changes my perspective and helps me to appreciate the things I otherwise take for granted; family, friends, faith.
Cancer has made me stronger, but it has not made me brave.