Bravery is defined in Merriam-Webster as courage.
I decided to look this up today. A co-worker was having a conversation with me, coming to find out everything that I had been going through in just the last several weeks. And his comment to me was, “You’re really brave.” And I looked at him like I was almost hoping for a hint of sarcasm or even some foolery. But for once, he meant it. And then he repeated it, “You are brave.”
The first time I heard it, I was uneasy. I was hoping the conversation would end, but when he said it the second time, I knew that I had to deal with it.
In my life, I am hard pressed to find even one instance in my life where I could be defined as brave. I have never fought in any armed service. I have never broke up an attempted bank robbery.
But when people find out that I have beaten cancer, had open heart surgery, two cases of pneumonia (one with sepsis and the other double pneumonia), kidney stones, all kinds of late issues from my treatments, I get, “You are brave.”
When I think of “bravery”, I think of men and women who run into a burning building, police officers who put themselves in harm’s way every day, an airline pilot flying a human missile loaded with hundreds of lives, a teacher shielding her students from a lunatic’s bullets.
No, I am not brave at all. I simply did what I had to do. I have two beautiful daughters who I know love me so much, it would devastate them to lose me. I have no choice but endure if my body and mind are capable of doing so. In the second half of my life, I have met so many people who have faced relapses of their cancer, multiple cancers, those who struggle with their survivorship from the treatments that saved their lives, and sadly, those who lost their battles.
I have always said that I would not go through anymore treatments if my Hodgkin’s Disease came back, that is, until my daughters came along. One of my dearest friends has faced nearly 50 surgeries all having to do with her surviving her cancer treatments, this along with a battle with a secondary cancer. With so many close calls, not just near death, or in some cases, flat lines, she continues to trudge on to this day, not only a proud mother, but the happiest grandmother, something that she never thought she would ever see.
I do not know how she would react if I told her that she was brave. I know on occasions when I have talked with her on the telephone, I have told her that I was speechless for words to how I felt with her continued struggles and survival. It would be easy for her to give up I think. She has been through so much. But the fact is, she has not given up. It is with her example that I can never make that decision either.
And so, I am watched periodically, whether month to month, quarterly, or annually. There are things that have been identified and can be dealt with. I go to my appointments not afraid, but confident in my caregivers that things will be dealt with sooner than later. That is not bravery, that is trust. As for the all-of-a-sudden stuff like the pneumonias, the cardiac issue, some kidney activity… a little luck does not hurt either.