Breast Cancer / my cancer

I’m not fearless. I’m a coward.

Curled_Up I want to be angry, to be a Fearless Friend to my sisters fighting MBC, to fight against the marginalization of the 30% of people with breast cancer that develop mets. When I feel well, I can be. Right now, I don’t know what I can be, other than afraid.

When I first went through chemotherapy in 2009, I went to a support group hosted by my hospital. I had a chemo treatment the day before and felt awful, and there was a new woman there. She had just had her lumpectomy that morning and talked through an iron jaw and clenched teeth about how she didn’t need any pain pills, how god and church music was all she needed to get through it. She had steel grey hair in a (midwestern old woman) buzz cut. I sat there feeling hurt and sick and ugly and bald, incredulous at this woman being lauded by everyone else for her strength and bravery. I knew at that moment and I just didn’t have it. I worked full time through my entire treatment and I still felt small and sick and hurt and ugly.

When I started my chemo break this past August, I felt good enough to be angry and add my voice to the fight. Until the mets in my brain manifested themselves. I felt so wounded and honestly doomed once the stoned glow in my head cleared away and my thinking was more clear. I keep getting stronger but my energy is nothing near what it was in October. I lose my sense of center easily and feel like I’m careening around until I sit down and rest. I see shapes and movement out of the corner of my eyes and have difficulty reading because of slightly doubled vision. I start classes in two weeks and I’m scared that I won’t be able to get through even one lecture. I’m scared that my hair is never going to grow back.* Especially since I haven’t had any radiation treatment since December 1st, and I barely have stubble on portions of my head while other parts are still smooth and shiny.

All I want to do is curl up under the covers so no one can hurt me anymore. Doctors can’t cut me or poison me or burn me. Students can’t try to make me responsible for their problems or paint me as evil because I won’t change their grades. And maybe I won’t die this year.

I’ve met so many astonishingly brave women with MBC and Fearless Friends without recently that I’m almost ashamed to be this scared. But then again, courage isn’t the absence of fear, but going on in spite of it, right? I hope I can do that again.

*Isn’t it weird how much hair really does matter? When lost my hair this time I thought I would handle it better then I did when I was on chemo, but nope, it’s just as devastating to my self-esteem as last time.


17 thoughts on “I’m not fearless. I’m a coward.

  1. My very dear Acacia,

    You can be afraid, you can be happy, you can be sad, you can be strong, you can be weak, you can have faith or you can feel hopeless. There is NO RIGHT WAY to “do cancer” and although I am not metastatic, I got a teeny little taste through my mother’s eyes. If my world is reeling because I am afraid for her, YOU have every right to be a coward. But, you keep going and yes, that is the essence of fearless.

    Just never forget how much love and support is around you. My mom was completely BLOWN away by all of the comments on my blog left for her. Read Renn’s comment on that blog post where your words were among those that helped her. Something about a fearless fence …. You can fall. We will pick you up. Every . Single . Time .


    • AM, It is so amazing to feel everyone standing behind me. I feel a little like my corgi Cooper. Whenever he feels nervous or insecure, he sits on my foot and knows I’ve got his back. Thanks for letting me sit on your foot.

  2. Brave is such a stupid word. We’re all cowards. All we want to do is live our lives. I hate being called “brave” just because I’m doing what I have to do. We are cowards with no choice but to go on. You are as “brave” as any single one of us because you are still here and you are still moving forward. And you break my heart and give me hope all at the same time.

    • Thanks darling! I remember when I first started and people would tell me I was brave, but all I did was show up for my appointments.

  3. Right behind every brave face is a quivering coward. Sometimes our despair is our strength, sometimes our just barely hanging on is proof our the very best within us. What is the difference between fear and bravery when either way you are human, you are here, you are beautiful, you are persisting, you are sharing, you love and you are loved? Perhaps there isn’t that much difference between being fearless and being fearful. I send you everything good that I possibly can – always. x

    • Thank you Lorry. I guess you can’t really be brave if you aren’t afraid. Brain mets were the only things I was truly terrified of. So much so that instead of my rose tattoo that I got in October, I considered having “None Shall Pass!) written across my neck. Boy, that would have been embarrassing! 🙂

  4. I’m not a coward. I am courageous. Brave men and women are brave for that simple truth: we’re doing what we have to do in the face of sheer unadulterated fear. Not everyone can do that.

    Acacia, you are so strong. Admitting weakness is a strength, sharing that you just want to curl up under the covers is a strength. That you continue to live when you could just as easily just pack it in and jump? That takes some balls, sister!

    AnneMarie is right–there is no right way to get through this. And whatever way is the one you choose from day-to-day we will be there for you, you courageous pink goose. No conditions, No strings. Just love.


    • Nothing cowardly about admitting your fears. Doing it on a blog is downright brave, I’d say. Just reading this reminded me how wretched this damned disease is, and the fact that you confront it head-on, without the prissiness of the pink ribbon culture forced upon us, is the epitome of courage. Yes, you could hide under the covers and let BC and mets ravage you, but you don’t. Not today. You’re not alone; we’re with ya. And when you have a day in which cancer seems to win, we’ll still be here, still admiring you, still cheering you on. The forever fence that Renn & Anne Marie speak of is real, and it’s encircling you.

      • Talking on the blog makes things easier because my husband never reads it. I can say things to my sisters here that in the physical world I can only say to my counselor once a week.

        Trust me, I’m sitting on all your feet!

  5. Pingback: 30%, nous sommes. « Cancer inflammatoire du sein (CIS)

  6. Acacia,

    Keep telling your truths. That’s what matters. And I agree that telling them and sharing so honestly on a blog is downright brave. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid. How else could you feel? I do hope you also feel cared for and supported. My very best to you today and every day. Thanks for writing this.

  7. I don’t think you are a coward when you are brave enough to admit you are afraid. And you have plenty of fear of the unknown ahead of you. Please know that you are surrounded by a community of people that really cares and understands what you are saying. Your honesty is refreshing and true to yourself. Losing your hair is a huge deal and you have a right to being upset about it. We say #fearlessfriends (just searching for the right words-and I am not sure there are “right” words) knowing that you are facing your fears and you have to go through so much with treatment that takes it out of you. Oh how I wish I could make this a bad dream and you could wake up from it but I know that’s not the case. Please keep speaking your truth. We are listening. Extra hugs and XoXoXo – Susan

  8. No one who goes through the hell that is breast cancer therapy could be considered a coward. You do this your way, and we’re all here to support you.

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