Being Brave in a Cancer World
In the past month, the topic of bravery has surfaced a number of times in my conversations with people. Perhaps it is because October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and there is a lot of focus on people dealing with breast cancer. I know that when something consistently pops up in different ways in my consciousness, I need to acknowledge it and listen to what it is trying to say.
BRAVERY- THE DEFINITION The dictionary definition of bravery i : To endure or face unpleasant conditions without showing fear; ready to face or endure danger or pain. People often refer to someone who is dealing with cancer as “brave”. I think when it comes to facing cancer; this definition is not accurate. Bravery implies choice and there is no choice when it comes to cancer. It chooses you. Those of us who have had cancer have been required to be brave in many ways and I think it shortchanges us to have a label put on us that connotes a lack of fear. Many of us feel plenty of fear! The reality is that we recognize that fear and yet continue on with whatever it is that we have to do to get better, if possible. Sometimes, that fear also means dealing with end of life issues with dignity. Perhaps, the brave person is the one who is able to express those fears and continue on without folding. I have recently done some work with a group of women who all have metastatic breast cancer. I asked them what being brave meant to them and they told me that it means finding meaning and joy in each day, having the courage to discuss with their friends and family their concerns and preparations for the future and getting comfortable with the knowledge that they know there
is an end point for them some day sooner than they would like it.
Some times the brave thing to do is break down in order to rebuild in a more resilient version of us. Speaking our Truth Once diagnosed with cancer, the opinions of doctors and the medical community take on an enormous role in determining the course of treatment and guiding us through the process of tests, surgical procedures, blood work, chemo and radiation. Often it is possible to feel caught in between doctors and their potential tools of healing and lose touch with what is the right thing for each of us. Bravery can also include empowering oneself to speak up about healthcare needs and concerns to our providers and caregivers. . This may also mean saying “no” to what doesn’t feel right even if it goes against what others recommend.
One of my clients told me that in the end, “bravery means acceptance of where I am and that this is my path, wherever it takes me.”