One of the best decisions I’ve made in the past week is sharing my colonoscopy results with you all. Seriously. The outpouring of support is overwhelming, in a good way. My heart was encouraged by the comments, messages, texts and phone calls all weekend.
It took me over an hour and a half to read everything on Facebook and respond. Wow, guys. Thank you.
I especially appreciate fellow patients who reached out and told me, “You can do this.” Many of them were ostomates willing to reveal their personal stories and history with a colostomy bag. They attest that life can get better with an ostomy.
A special thanks to Jodi who even sent me several of her personal family pictures to show me she lives life to the fullest with her ostomy. I’m struck that you’d do that for a stranger.
Facebook didn’t exist (actually, none of social media was around) when I was diagnosed in 2001, so it’s a relatively new way for me to share such personal news. That might sound crazy coming from a blogger whose career has heavily involved social media.
But, when you’re behind the screen posting and sharing other people’s stories, it’s not quite the same as posting your own.
What is brave?
Out of the flood of kind messages I received over the weekend, one comment stands out to me:
“You’re so brave.”
I’ve done my best to accept and receive the encouragement (and so appreciate the kind words), but in all honesty… I don’t feel very brave. I feel a little numb and disconnected.
Our minds can do this amazing thing when we need to survive and cope with hard news. We can force ourselves to build up mental walls that hold back the tidal wave of emotions trying to break in.
We can put how we feel on pause so we can set appointments, take a shower, and get our work done. We hold the power to override our feelings so we can take the next step. But then, we also hold the power to sit down and reconnect with our feelings, letting the scary thoughts, nervous breakdowns, and fearful “what ifs” slip back in one by one.
Is this brave? Maybe so. To me, it's life... and cancer survivorship.
This emotional boat of resisting the pain and then welcoming negative emotions in, and it being an important, healthy process, is such an odd thing. It’s even odder to write it all out and post it on the Internet. So maybe this is where and why the brave comments are coming in.
Seeing brave in others
At the tail end of this weekend, I happened to stumble across an article on Twitter basically saying, “nobody calls themselves brave.” (Also, in a very "Twitter" way, alluding to the fact nobody should call themselves brave.)
This made me feel a little better.
“Brave” isn’t something we often see in ourselves; bravery is what we admire in others. So I guess it makes sense that I cannot see or feel the bravery in myself right now. But, I can see it in others.
I see it in my husband who is facing his own emotions in light of our recent events, and I see it in my family members digesting the “she’s likely having surgery again” news.
I see it in fellow cancer patients who aren’t just dealing with surgeries and side effects, but active cancer cells in their bodies. It takes courage to face each day when you’re not in remission.
I see bravery in everyone running for office today; whether I vote for them or not, it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and get scrutinized.
I see bravery in my friend Doc who is traveling the world, sleeping on floors and taking cold showers to share the love of Jesus with people who’ve never heard His name.
I see bravery in dear friends and family members mourning the loss of a loved one, they're putting one step in front of the other so they can celebrate her life this week.
I see courage in love, openness and honesty... all things we cherish that can also break our hearts.
When I step back, I see a lot of bravery. And, I start to feel the impact when someone takes the time to point it out.