A person walking bravely into unknown darkness

Cancer Courage and When It Fails

There's a certain type of courage to facing cancer. It's a very individual experience. Leya Elijah’s article, The Pressure to be Brave, really got me thinking. What is Cancer Courage? Can it fail us?

What is cancer courage?

Cancer Courage has a physical bravery. It’s knowing that our well-being is at extreme risk. Whether we decide for or against treatment, we enter a life-threatening place. We do our best to remain stoic through tests, scans, operations, radiation, chemotherapy, and all of the life-altering side effects and progression of the disease. We push our bodies in ways we never even thought possible before.

Cancer Courage has a psychological bravery. It's knowing we need to be resilient, persistent, and adaptable through our treatment and beyond it. This disease affects our well-being, our employment, our finances, and our closest relationships. Our lives change from who we were before and after diagnosis. We do our best to face our fears without losing our minds in the process.

Cancer courage has a moral bravery. We can play a very active role in our treatment; we ask the hard questions, we sign up for trials and experiments, and we advocate. These choices are often complicated and aren’t always favorable to others. Speaking up for what we believe is right doesn’t always make us popular. The choices we face may be extremely uncomfortable for others to see.

Bravery ebbs and flows

There are times when finding compassion in others can be an act of bravery in itself! When we look for a compassionate ear to listen some of the comments we receive are downright hurtful. Not everyone is equipped to receive the true impact of this experience.

This Cancer Courage is an incredible act of self-control. It takes a phenomenal amount of energy. That energy is finite. It has its limits.

There are times when the exhaustion is overwhelming. Through pain and confusion, we can be filled with fear, anger, doubt, and shame (just to name a few). After a decade of navigating leukemia, I can tell you that it isn't always easy to be grateful especially in the face of symptoms and side effects. There are days that bravery gives way and we retreat to lick our wounds.

So there's one more aspect to Cancer Courage I'd like to share. It's the courage to go ahead and feel. It's the courage to find self-compassion and to bravely go forth in our own self-care! It's the courage to find what works for us in an effort to feel better. It's permission to put full attention on our needs so that we can build our strength again.

Cancer bravery returns time and again. It ebbs and flows. It isn't always inspirational. After all, we are only human.

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