We’re Not Brave
by Amanda Grabler, Copyright © July 2018
My wife has cancer.
These are words I never thought I would say, and these past 9 months have become a blur as we look for her absolute best options, and as I watch her go through treatments.
We’ve been called brave and inspirational by many people. Friends, family, and random people in online support groups.
I have just said thanks and moved on, because, we didn’t want to deter people from following T’s progress, and we didn’t want to deter people from commenting. But as things become more stressful, I felt like now is the time I need to say something, as T’s wife and as T’s caregiver.
We’re not brave.
We’re not inspirational.
And I think when other people going through similar things see these words from others telling us how brave we are, and they don’t feel brave about their own situation, they end up wondering why they don’t feel brave about their scary illness, chronic disease, injury, and so forth. And this may make them feel badly, or feel depressed (or more depressed).
There is NOTHING wrong with you if you don’t feel brave about what you’re going through!
It’s okay if you’re petrified about what you’re going through.Guess what? We are too!
Don’t fight to be brave. Fight to live. Do it because the alternative is unthinkable. Because your friends and family would be devastated to lose you.
We don’t fight to be brave. We fight because there is no other option. Fighting is necessary.
- I am scared out of my mind ALL. OF. THE. TIME.
- I cry. A lot.
- I am super, super stressed all of the time.
- I can’t imagine a world without Teresa in it.
- I don’t want to imagine a world without Teresa in it.
- I don’t want to live in a world without Teresa in it.
So I research, and ask hard questions, and push, and push, and ask for help from the LMS support group, and other general sarcoma groups, and uterine cancer groups; anyone who may have advice from a similar situation.
I am not brave.
I don’t want to be inspiring. In the disability community, which T and I are now both part of, labeling disabled people as inspiring is something called inspiration porn. And, yeah, it’s as awful as the name makes it sound.
Inspiration porn is calling disabled people “inspirational” solely because they are disabled (under the guise that they overcome obstacles or never let anything slow them down).
No one called either of us inspirational until Teresa had cancer. (Well, except for one total stranger several years ago who said I was inspirational for being autistic and married “like a normal person”.) We’re inspirational because of the cancer. Not because of who we are as people. Let me tell you that the determination I put into trying to find a way to get Teresa into NED (No Evidence of Disease) is the same kind of determination I put into pretty much everything I do. If it wasn’t inspirational before Augst 2017, then it isn’t inspirational now.
The way Teresa is facing cancer is pretty much who I’ve known her to be since I met her in 2009. If you thought she was inpirational for just being who she is every day of her life, cool. If it’s because you’re only seeing her as inspirational because she’s going about her daily activities while having cancer, not cool.
I don’t write this to offend any of you who have said we’re brave and/or inspirational.
And I sincerely hope it doesn’t drive any of you off from following Teresa’s fight to live.
If you actually have cancer, and you find encouragement from what Teresa is going through, help from the information we share, and so forth. That’s cool. That’s totally different. You’re coming at this from a different perspective.
We both thought long and hard about sharing our feelings on this. But we just got to the point where we felt… we had to say something instead of mumbling an awkward thanks each time we heard it or read it. We hope you understand.
I wrote an earlier post called When a Loved One Has Cancer: An Important Message for Friends and Family, but never shared it with anyone, except Teresa and a wonderful Oncology RN who has been helping us from afar. Teresa thought now was a good time to share it, because it briefly addresses what to say / what to talk about when you’re not sure what is okay. It is linked below.