Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brave or Fearless


Are we brave?
  
I know many people think we are.  We're told often enough by people never having dealt with breast cancer, but are we truly brave?  Is it brave to face the fears in the room simply because you're left without a choice?  

My computer's dictionary definition of brave as an adjective:

Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage

In spite of the compliment, I never thought of myself as brave.  It seems to me "bravery" comes forward when you can choose to walk away from the challenge, from the scary, from the pain...but don't.  You choose to meet them head on.

Most breast cancer patients do not have the luxury of choosing.  Surgery and treatment is not the choice.  To live or die is the choice.  We're just doing what needs to be done.

Perhaps bravery comes later, after completion of surgeries and treatment. When months go by without a doctor's appointment, a blood test or a scan of some sort.  When new questions invade our brains brought on by too much time to think, too much time for cells to mutate and grow.  Again. 

Next week I'll face my oncologist for the first time in four months.  It's been 9 months since he sent me for ct scans and ultrasounds of any kind.  That's a long time. Time enough for every ache, twinge and cough to convince me bad things are happening.  

Where's the brave now?

With this heavy on my mind, we recently took our boys to a nearby ski area for group lessons, where I came face to face with two boys I'll call Brave and Fearless.

Meet Fearless:

"Ride in an open chair 30 feet up in the air?  Awesome!!'

"Ski black diamond with only having skied green twice?  No problem!"  

"How high is that wall of snow?  I'm on it!"



Meet Brave:

He's the one with feet firmly planted in the snow refusing to go with his instructor.  His little mittened hand reaching around to grab my leg, tears rolling down his cold cheeks.  His body stiff as a snowboard, while begging not to go.

He fought the idea of ski class for 30 minutes.  While trying encouraging words, promises of treats, and finally bribes, I kept questioning how I could have misjudged his readiness.  How could I have been so wrong about him?

Suddenly, as if resigned to his fate, he asked me to walk him to his group.  I told him I would, but then I'd have to leave.  He stood still as I wiped freezing tears off his face and promised to watch.  I didn't turn back as I walked away, afraid he'd run to me.   He didn't.  He stayed.  He had made his choice.

I watched him hover close to his instructor for a while, then watched him hang at the back of the line.  That's the thing about Brave, even when he ventures into the danger zone, he's always carrying some fear along.  He'll go eventually, but he can't enter freely to embrace the challenge.  He'll take it slow, come what may. 

At some point, he started to enjoy himself.  He was no longer at the back of the line, but leading it down the "bigger" hill.  Brave had conquered fear.

And the other one, Fearless?  Well, his name says it all.  It's easy for him.  He doesn't carry the panic, the trepidation, the worry.  He senses the adventure and doesn't just enter the zone, but barrels right on through expecting success. Good for him.

As for me, I'm not without fear, so I'm rooting for the brave one.  He stepped forward when every bone in his body told him not to.  When thoughts of the unknown terrified him, he went anyway and came out better for it.  

Kind of like us when we choose to visit our doctors and follow through with tests despite the fear that travels along with us.  I'm just hoping to come out better for it.


14 comments:

  1. Stacey, what a great post! I'm praying your appointment goes A-OK. I've definitely been there, done that. Even though I'm now graduated to one-year checkups after eight years of remission, I still wonder if a new ache or pain is a sign of that nasty cancer coming back. I've been called brave, too, when I didn't feel brave at all. When I answered someone who told me I was brave that I really had no choice, she broke out crying. She insisted I was brave, because she had lost her mother two months before. I couldn't convince her otherwise.

    I identify completely with your brave little skier. My three grown boys are all skiers, two brave and one fearless. To each his own.

    Take good care, Jan

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  2. Great post Stacey, I love the way you write about your boys. I have a brave child of my own. And she is 13 years old. She struggles to overcome things that many kids don't seemed phased by. And she tells me often about how I am her Hero. She writes about my battles with cancer with awe and reverence and it makes my heart melt.
    I am envisioning health and healing and bravery for you as you approach your doc visit. I know very much how you are feeling. You WILL get through this storm to the other side, and you will be well.
    Debbie

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  3. Awesome, awesome post. I also had people tell me I was brave and never really understood it. I guess if we're not screaming or crying we must be brave, right? :)Love how you compare it to your kids too.

    You reminded me of a T-shirt I saw a young guy wearing one day when those "No Fear" shirts were big. His said "Some fear." It cracked me up.

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  4. Thank you, dear Bug.
    There's bravery and courage. Bravery happens, as you described, in having no other choice but to go forward.

    Courage we might think of as something else entirely. Courage is what you are doing every day now; by confronting uncertainty and fear. You're courageous when you choose to see and write about the beauty of your son climbing a mountain.

    You're courageous when you open your heart and write so honestly about cancer.

    Thank you so, so much,
    Jody

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  5. Tears rolling down my face. That was beautiful. You know we will be praying with everything we have in us for another "all clear" next week.

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  6. Brave ? Fearless ? I don't know. In getting through the next big challenge, I just take a deep breath, close my eyes, and hope for the best, tempered with a little dose of reality. We'll all be there with you. xxxx

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  7. Stacey, Love this post! The whole bravery concept has always been a mystery to me. I think people just say we're brave attempting to make us feel better. I agree, in order to be brave, you need choice. Cancer doesn't allow for choice, at least not much. Wonderful story about your boys. Isn't it amazing how different each child is? That just makes them each more special. Good luck at your appt.

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  8. Hi, Stacey!

    Give yourself a little more credit for being brave. Not because other people call you brave, but because you ARE brave. Two examples from your post:

    You let your little boy go to his ski lesson when he was obviously scared. You - who by all means should be harboring fears that everything that can go wrong will - were brave enough to let him go and work through his fears without imposing yours on him.

    Also, because you MADE an appointment with your oncologist and are GOING. I've seen plenty of people put off a follow-up due to fear and denial. Just by making the appointment you faced your fears.

    Sorry, Stace - you ARE brave. :)
    Lots of luck next week. - Deb

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  9. Jan, thank you for your kind comments. I guess it just seems brave to those that have no clue about it. What else can they really say? Thanks for telling me about your skiers. I like hearing things like that.

    Debbie, your daughter must be so proud of you. I love that you're her hero. I'm sure you'd be whether you had to fight the cancer battle or not. Thank you for your positive thoughts. I'll be carrying them with me.

    Jackie, it's so true, to other people. As you say, if we're not crying, we must be brave. The fine line is not seen by those that don't get it. We do what we have to do. I wish I had that "some fear" tee shirt. That made me laugh.

    Hi Jody, thanks for writing. You get it. I almost wrote the definition of courage as I was writing this post. I had even looked it up. I like it better than bravery. It has to do with facing adversity whether you want to or not and I think that's a better description of what we deal with. Thanks for your lovely comments.

    Hi Wen, no tears required. Thanks for the good thoughts.

    Anna, as always, thanks for reading and I agree with you. Hope for the best is all we can do. Bravery has nothing to do it. It's survival.

    Nancy, you see it as I do. As I just said to Anna, bravery has nothing to do with it. Thoughts of our kids help get through the tough times and now this online community!

    Hi Deb, thanks so much for reading and your comments. Bravery walks a fine line, but I love what you said about letting my little guy go. At the time, I considered letting him off the hook, but I knew it wasn't what he really wanted. I also didn't want him getting used to thinking, crying would get him out of stuff. That doesn't work in life, as we know. Thanks again.

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  10. As an Ovarian cancer survivor, I know exactly what you are talking about.

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  11. I loved reading about your sons and how they approach life differently! Just as we all approach our cancer diagnoses and treatments differently, yet we still have so much to offer each other...support!

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  12. Aw Stacey, this was great. You. Are. Brave.

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  13. Denise, I know you can totally relate. That's the fantastic thing about the cancer blogging world. We get it, no explanations needed. Just there for each other. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

    Hi Ginny, thanks. The same goes for me. I love reading your adventures with your little girls. They never fail to make me smile.

    Lisa, thanks. Hey, i thought of you yesterday as I was making homemade chocolate syrup. Unbelievably easy and so yummy! Why don't people know about this? I was tempted to send you the recipe. Still might.

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  14. Stacey,
    I just LOVE this post and I'm so glad you shared it today so I could read it. As I get ready to fly to Rwanda tomorrow for the next leg of my Adventure of Hope, my heart is in my throat and no part of me wants to go. I wish I was fearless, but every time I push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I'm scared out of my mind. I had the chance to meet Marie at JBBC this weekend and we had a lovely conversation about bravery and courage. I couldn't agree with you more. Fighting breast cancer doesn't make you brave. It's moving on with your life, with motherhood or travel, with the fear of a reoccurrence and choosing to make the most of every day that makes us brave. I love the pictures of your boys and the image I now have my mind of their personalities. Thank you for sharing!

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