I don't think of us as heroes. That word ought to be reserved for people who do something truly remarkable in which they have a choice: jumping into the river to save a drowing child, running into the burning building, all the bravery in battle. We don't really have a choice unless you think that opting not to jump off a bridge or to refuse treatment might be options. Instead, we all do the best that we can. Often this just means getting up every morning, too often feeling poorly, and going about our daily business. Do you know the wonderful quote: "Courage is like a muscle. To strengthen it, you have to use it."? Again, I am a bit more comfortable substituting a different word for "courage", but surely strength and determination and grit and persistence and faithfulness and responsibility and maturity all fit this pattern.
Once we're done, once the treatment has been completed, and we finally begin to feel better and resume our lives or start to pick up the pieces of our lives, we surely ought to give ourselves a lot of credit for what we have done. It takes a very stout heart to manage, and manage we do. I think one of the ways to divide the world of cancer survivors is those who are never again really afraid of anything (thinking something along the lines of: I got through breast cancer, so I can get through anything else that comes my way) and those who are more afraid of everything (thinking something along the lines of: Oh, no! Now I know that bad things really do happen."). I hope you are in the former group.
And I know you will like this essay:
Breast Cancer Awareness: Jumping in
I stood on the swim platform at the stern of the Sea Satin, a 36-foot Dutch Steel ocean cruiser, shivering, teeth chattering with the frigid 60° F water of the English Channel lapping over my feet and ankles. I was wearing only my navy blue speedo swim suit, white silicone cap and green tinted goggles. There was a red blinking light clipped to my goggle straps and a green
glowing light stick double-safety pinned to the back straps of my suit. It was dark -- just past 10:30 p.m. I stared down into the black choppy waters, willing myself to jump in.
Exactly four months earlier, on March 27, 2012, I underwent a lumpectomy in my left breast. My breast surgeon at the University of Michigan, Dr. Lisa Newman, removed a 2.2 centimeter mass and five lymph nodes. I was 44 years old and one day.
I could hear our boat pilot, Lance Oram, yelling that it was time to go. Gary, one of the crew members, was just above me calmly repeating what Lance was saying; letting me know it was time. I began hyperventilating. I heard more yells of, "Go, Go, Go" from Lance below deck.
I knew we were still on track for the world record, although our margin was slowly diminishing. I knew my husband, Todd, was waiting for me at the beach in Dover. I knew there were people back home following our swim. I knew my teammates had given everything they had in them. I knew if I didn't swim we would be disqualified and it would all be over.
I was scared. I felt as if all my usual confidence and conviction had been drained away. I felt small, childlike. I was beyond exhausted. I was nauseous. I felt hot, while at the same time chilled to the bone. In a word, I was miserable.