I am just about to start my first chemo medication. I am fighting with myself to remember to stay present and not fall into the panic of, “What is this going to do to me? What is this going to feel like? Is it going to hurt? Is everything going to be different?” I have to admit, it is a huge red scary looking syring they use to administer the first chemo drug. Most of me wants to unplug myself from these lines and go back home with my girls and Tom where it is safe. That is such an enormous and demanding sadness it is hard to describe. It’s mostly fear mixed in with a healthy dose of longing for what my life used to be. I am scared and sad and fighting back tears in a strange room full of strange noises and nurses and other chemo patients covered in blankets.
The fear of the unknown is wild.
Having an active imagination is wonderful for things that require creativity: entrepreneurial ventures, problem solving, interior decorating, birthday parties. It is not awesome in the face of danger- real or perceived. When I was a kid my mom used to make me get a gallon of milk from the fridge downstairs in the basement. I hated it. Every time I went, I flicked off the light and sprinted up the stairs, taking them two by two, gallon of milk in one hand hauling myself up the railing with my free hand until I was back in the kitchen and safe in the light. Honestly, I don’t know what Boogie Man I thought was going to come grab me but I was convinced the dark hid something foreboding and I was not going to stick around to find out. I had such an intense fear of the unknown as a kid. As an adult, I’ve now swapped creatures of the dark for life’s real worries: death, disease, loss, failure. They have moved in like unwelcome house guests and I hate to share my space with them.
It is in the face of this fear that I start thinking about being brave.
What is bravery?
Is it brave to sit here and do the obvious thing of taking medication that will save my life? Not really. Bravery is less about choices and more about responses. Maybe bravery is more like grabbing my laptop during one of the scariest moments of my life and sharing my fears with the world in the hope that someday, when someone out there who has read this is feeling sad or lonely or scared, they will know that I was there once, too. They will lean against the knowledge that yes, this is hard and scary and doesn’t feel very good right now, but it is necessary and you will get through it.
And maybe that will lessen the burden for both of us.
Right now, as I start my second chemo medication, I’m imagining all the faces of friends who have posted on my page or on this blog or who have texted or called or emailed. I’m actually pulling up in my mind each face and am thinking of them filling this room with me. Soon, this big room is filled with people from near and far sitting in chairs, standing in the open spaces, smiling and waiving at me in support. They are crowding out the worries. Once again, I’m blinking back the tears.
As I sit here with chemo warming my chest and arms, I realize this is going to be a game of inches. One small movement forward after another. Maybe normalizing sorrow and fear takes some of the bite out of it. It’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to be afraid, and guess what guys? I am. But that’s okay. I’m ready for that. Like I said, today is Day 1 of the rest of my life. No one said it would be easy-but I do believe it will be worth it.
So be strong out there, friends. Chins up, spirits high. Own your place in this world. All we have what we have been given- and that is a heck of a lot. If I can be brave, so can you. And I already know you are. So, go do good things and embrace the day. It makes me feel better just thinking about it. Love to you all.
Give em’ hell.