I don’t think you wake up one morning and say I think I’m going to be brave today. I don’t think courage is something you consciously decide to do. I think courage comes from within and unexpectedly, in moments when you decide not to give up regardless of how you’re feeling. I think it comes when you decide to push on in spite of obstacles in your way. Sometimes, I think it comes when you decide to sit out for a round. I believe that knowing when you’ve had enough and need a rest also takes courage. Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith that comes from somewhere deep inside of you to muster the courage you need to proceed.
In the face of those around you, sometimes you need to set aside time to not be brave at all, to take time to cry, to feel badly, to just let it all go. I think there is healing in those moments as much as in the moments when you press on. I know that some days, I don’t want to be brave anymore, and I want to run away and pretend that my life is normal again. I don’t like these moments very much. I don’t like for people to see me cry; but sometimes, it’s good to let it out and let it go. I think we all need to know that we don’t have to be brave all the time. I think we need to know that it’s normal to go through a range of emotions. I don’t think it’s normal to stay in the low moments though, and if you aren’t having the good with the bad, then it’s time to seek some help.
I know I’m not the same as I was before my cancer diagnosis. I know that I have good days and bad days. I also realized that I wasn’t myself and that I needed people like me with breast cancer to talk to about all that I was feeling.
I’m not one to reach out to others. I prefer quiet solitude in the midst of my misery to the boisterous chaos of a group. I’m the quiet one in a group until I get to know people, and I don’t naturally reach out to other people. If you come and talk to me, I’ll gladly engage in conversation but being the first to make contact is difficult for me.
After weeks of being home alone recovering, I longed for others to talk to; others like me, where I could find out if they feel the same way I do. I had been given a brochure for The Pink House during one of my visits to the cancer center. I heard they offer support groups and exercise classes for breast cancer patients in all levels of treatment. I thought about calling them on more than one occasion but that meant I had to pick up the phone and talk to a stranger. What would I say? I was afraid of not knowing what to ask or afraid to tell them that I wanted to know if what I was feeling was normal or not. I pushed it out of my mind, threw myself into journaling and an online photography class to occupy my lonely days.
My first week back at work came and I thought I was ready to face it. I looked forward to the company of my work family again. I had missed them. It wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be but it almost felt like I never left. I picked up where I left off and between emails, phone calls and meetings, I was back in the thick of it again. I felt sad though. I didn’t feel quite myself. I felt different and not just physically. It was definitely mental as well. My third day back, I knew I needed to call The Pink House and I mustered up enough courage to do so.
The first words out of my mouth were something like this, “Hi! I’m Angela Sells. I got your information from the Levine Cancer Institute. I had surgery 6 weeks ago. I started Tamoxifen last Monday and I’m feeling…” and I paused…
“Hormonal” the voice on the other end of the line said.
“Yes, I think so.” I said and I sighed with relief.
The warm, sympathetic voice on the other end of the phone began to tell me her story and what The Pink House is and does for Breast Cancer Survivors. How I should just stop by and eat lunch with her that week or come to one of the classes they offer, and definitely come join them for the survivor support group that meets once a month.
I was so glad I made that call. In my crumbling world, she was my light that day and when I wanted to find normal again, she showed me the compass. I found courage outside of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad that I did. It’s okay to reach out when you need to and it’s okay not to be brave all the time, but there are times that it’s really important for your courage to show up. I pray that you find courage today for whatever it is you need to do to find your True North again. Make the call you need to, even if it’s just a caring friend or family member that can listen to you for a bit. We all need a little help being brave sometimes.