We have had a difficult week. Eleri has been pretty poorly and it has put halt to everything. You know it’s been tough when the medical staff are using words like brave, courageous and strong. The word brave has stuck in my head and I have been pondering over it.
Sometime ago I came to the conclusion that bravery is largely subjective. I believe it it is a virtue that everyone possesses. For a person who is arachnophobic, it is brave for them to be in the same room as a spider; a person boarding a plane when they have an overwhelming fear of flying is brave; a solider going off to fight in a war and knowing that they might be killed, is brave; an alcoholic attending a party with friends and ordering a tonic water while everyone else is having their favourite tipple, is brave. Also, one person might have to call on bravery more than once in their life and for very different reasons – the solider that went to war might later have to find the courage to ask for help in dealing with the emotional ramifications of taking part in armed conflict. My point is bravery comes in a multitude of forms and changes with personal circumstance. We all find bravery in us when we need to. When you have no choice but to face your fear, I think everyone finds the resilience within to try and overcome adversity.
‘Strong’ is a word that is often used in conjunction with or as well as ‘brave’. They are used in an interchangeable way when people are trying to find the words to express their reaction to whatever challenge you may be trying to conquer. The problem, in my experience, is when you are faced with a particular woe that you need to overcome, you don’t really feel brave, strong or courageous. We certainly don’t. In fact, the majority of the time we live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. It feels like we are jumping from one catastrophe to another without any control or real understanding of what is going on. When we talk about what we are experiencing, we always get the response ‘you are so brave, I don’t know how you do it.’ We do what we need to do to get through a day. We get up, we function, we go to bed. No parent is trained to deal with childhood cancer. No one is trained to be brave. You don’t have a choice, you fight for what you love with all of your being and hope that it’s enough. The alternative isn’t worth considering.
This week Eleri has been battling a serious infection. She has been in acute pain and has spent hours screaming and crying. However, when she emerges from her cloud of pain and fear, she apologises for shouting at everyone. She attempts to eat. She attempts to play with the gifts she has been given. She attempts to be normal, even when she feels wretched. In Eleri’s case, bravery is attempting to be a child when having contend with suffering usually reserved for an adult world. Childhood cancer is a cruel unrelenting beast and facing that day after day without a true understanding of what is happening to you is, in my opinion, the highest form of bravery.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we are no different from any other family that is thrust into the crazy world of cancer. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we weep and sometimes we shout. There are some days when we don’t want to get out of bed and we don’t feel like being strong. We don’t want to carry on the fight – but we do. We also get sick of the sight of each other. Being in close proximity to your loved ones for an extended period of time is not always conducive with staying of sound mind – everyone needs a break. But through all of this, we are together. A comedy of errors out life may have become, but it’s our comedy and we will be as brave as we need to be to ensure it’s not taken away from us.