I went back to work today and stopped at the coffee house across the street beforehand. I used to go everyday before the "Big C" but haven't been around in a while.
Immediately, the woman who works there started peppering me with questions, "Where have you been?" I told her I'd been on medical leave and she asked what was wrong, so I told her the v. short version of the whole story.
She then told me that her nephew in El Salvador has bone cancer, has had one leg amputated and has had the cancer spread to his hip, where they can't operate. He has a few years to live. She said "Hold on! I'll show you a picture!" She brought back a photo of a handsome, smiling young boy with only one leg sitting next to his grandma.
"He's smiling!' "Yes, he's very happy." I asked how he kept up his good attitude. I mean, if I were 17, had one leg and terminal cancer I don't know if I could muster a smile, let alone look so happy and proud in a picture. She said that he always tried to remember when he could run and play and that made him happy. Also, he was on the list from the American Cancer Society to get a prosthetic leg and that made him happy.
All I want to do now is get on a plane, fly to El Salvador and give that 17 year old the biggest hug ever. How amazing.
I find this boy so brave. And yet, when people call me brave I just shrug it off. I tell them I'm just doing what the doctors tell me will save my life and dealing with how crappy it makes me feel. It's not bravery, I tell them, you just do it.
But that's exactly what this boy is doing. Just getting through it. And I find him remarkably brave. So why is it, yet again, that I can't be as kind to myself as I am to others? I meet another cancer patient and we hug. It's an unspoken bond. But am I giving myself enough credit? I am one of those people that treat others with much more kindness than I treat myself. I never see my accomplishments as anything special. Just something I did.
I want to be my own best cheerleader. I will always continue to be so proud of the people in my life, but I think I need to turn some of that inward. Most of it inward.
So I will start here: I am fighting fucking cancer. That is something to be proud of. I may still not think of myself as brave, but I have been through such an ordeal in the last eight months that I have a right to be proud of surviving it with at least my sense of humor and about 100 hairs intact.
Everybody gets a hug today. Including me.