Friday, September 11, 2009

Non-Political Blog About Courage and Strength

I have never had cancer, but I can't imagine that I'd be particularly strong if I did get it. For one, I have an almost pathological dislike of vomiting. Seriously. I know that no one particularly likes to throw up, but I have probably thrown up no more than a handful of times in life. I'm probably jinxing myself by writing that, but anyway.

Two, during the years when I lacked health insurance, I had intermittent bouts of cyberchrondia. Not being able to afford to go to the doctor, I would use Dr. Google to do a search for any symptoms I was experiencing and then I would do the next logical thing and diagnose myself with everything from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to prostate cancer. That was anxiety-provoking enough, and I think that the finality of receiving an actual cancer diagnosis from a real doctor would be much more frightening.

Cancer is scary to us. If we ourselves have not had it, we almost certainly have close friends and relative who have. Yet, is there something a bit unrealistic about glorifying those dealing with cancer who Put on a Brave Face and Live Strong? One writer, suggests yes:

"It seems to me the cancer community has blown out of proportion the concept of strength. My back has been up against the oncology wall many times when I’ve gone under the knife or swallowed a radioactive iodine pill. I’ve surmounted these challenges not because I’m strong, but because the alternative means dying. It is strange to have placed on me such lofty personality judgments and descriptors like strength, courage and inspiration in response to having gone through situations that stink and about which I have no other choice."

I think often about courage and enjoyed reading some of the comments to the article discussing the concept. People see courage in many different situations. Some, see it in firefighters rushing into burning buildings to rescue people. Others see it in soldiers going to war. I see it in those situations, but also in common, simple experiences. Almost daily, each of us probably faces some sort of fear in life. Courage, I think, doesn't mean never being scared. It means feeling that fear, acknowledging it, and doing what you have to do in that moment anyway.

A theme tended to occur in some of the comments. Maybe it's not cancer that makes people brave and strong. Maybe each of us is already those things and somewhere along the way, some of us forget that.

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