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On Bravery

I am constantly uplifted by your encouragement of my bravery in the face of all of this, but I think that I should probably clarify what you all see as courage.

Yesterday Stella left a comment about how far she thought I had come from hardly being able to look in the mirror to going to class with no head covering. And I think that when you read the stories and read my thoughts about being bald, it probably does look like I’ve come a long way. I want to make sure to state that I don’t feel as brave as the stories make me sound. Not even close. It is very frightening to go anywhere without something on my head. When I do go somewhere, I find myself even more sensitive than usual to the reactions of other people. I think that I see this as a test for myself. How far can I push myself? How far away from my comfort level can I get? It is still a shock when I see myself in the mirror or catch sight of my reflection in a window. I still don’t look like me, and that’s hard to handle.

I’m not quite sure why I feel the need to test myself this way, but I think it has something to do with trying to live with the hand that I’ve been dealt. I am never unaware of the fact that what I have been dealt is nothing at all compared to many other people. I see people living bravely with much more difficult situations than mine every single day. If they can do what they do, then how can I possibly not try to handle this one with something resembling strength and courage?

It’s not easy. On Monday night Randy and I attended a cancer fundraiser. For the past 37 years, Lou Malnati’s, a Chicago-based pizza restaurant, has held an annual cancer benefit. Proceeds from the evening go to cancer programs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Children’s Memorial Hospital and Gilda’s Club. This year Jim Belushi came and performed at the benefit with a Second City troupe. (Very unfortunately, I was exhausted long before the performance began so we left just as he took the stage and neither of us got to see him. Damn chemotherapy.) As I mentioned over the weekend, I decided that I would go to the dinner without a head covering. There were hundreds of attendees at the benefit, but people, for the most part, didn’t pay much attention to me and my bare head. Nevertheless, it was difficult to take my hat off after we arrived, to walk through the dinner buffet au naturale, and to stand next to other women looking in the mirror in the bathroom to reapply my lipstick. I imagine that people probably thought I was brave, but in reality I felt anything but brave the entire time I was there.

Despite the cold (today I am wearing a scarf AND a hat), I will continue to push myself to show my head in public. I feel very strongly about this being something that I can do right now—I can show people that this is what cancer looks like, and that it’s okay. Death most certainly does not arrive with the prognosis.

Kim and Matthew small.JPG
Matthew and me before the benefit


But Kim, isn't that what bravery is? Doing something that's hard?

You are incredibly brave, and have shown so much courage.

This blog alone proves that. Your candid discussions and admissions, and your beautiful bare head.

You are amazing.

Keep pushing the limits. You only prove over and over again how truly beautiful you are.

What Zuska said. The bravest people are not the ones who are unafraid but the ones who overcome their fear and act anyway.

As for myself, I felt more comfortable with my own reflection once the top of my head wasn't in such stark contrast with my face. Perhaps you might try some of that rub on tanning lotion for your scalp. Watch out though. You don't want to look like an oompaloompa. ;-)

I agree with what everyone else has said. Being brave doesn't mean that you aren't scared - it means you are putting one foot in front of the other and getting through this one step at a time. That is a huge testament to others for so many reasons and SHOULD be admired. I think any time we have to go through something awful or hard, we have to gather our strength together in whatever way we can to proceed through it. In your case, you are drawing strength from showing your beautiful bare head - it's giving you personal power, which I hope will help you fight through the rest of your treatment. We are all with you in spirit, and if you ever think you can't do this any more, just ask us - we KNOW that you can! Keep your head up high!

Oh, but you ARE! You're so brave to blog your journey. Heck, I think you're brave just to get out of bed in the morning. What you have to remember is that people judge bravery not based on whether you think you're brave, but based on what they think they would do in your shoes. I think I would curl up in a ball in the closet and never come out so, compared to me, you are very brave! And beautiful. You should frame that picture for your son - what a great one!

I agree. I think bravery is going beyond your comfort zone. If it were within your comfort zone, it wouldn't be brave to do it. I think you're super hot. :)

Not only are you incredibly brave, but a remarkable role model. You look beautiful and elegant. I agree, it's a great picture!

Brave is a good word but I think it's even more than that. Difficult times reveal what we are really made of, what type of character we have. Until then, we always wonder if we could stand up under the pressure and how we would respond. When we see someone live their life under difficult circumstances and face adversity with grace and dignity, it helps us to believe that if there is one, then there can be many. And if that dignity and grace lives in you, then it might possibly live in me as well. That gives me hope and emboldens me to live my life to the fullest every day.

Peter has this to say to those who are suffering in I Peter 1.

"..who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

If the trials do not come, Peter seems to say, we are left wondering whether our faith is genuine or not. One of the side benefits of adversity is the knowledge that what we once thought might destroy is, actually makes us stronger. By standing up under pressure, you bring hope (salvation) to others. Whether you recognize it or not, God is doing some amazing things through you.

Remember a conversation you and I had not long ago about finding a strength from within that you didn't even know was there??? Well it looks like you've found it. When we read about bravery, we read about normal people facing unusually uncomfortable situations and looking fear straight in the face. You, my dear, are "bravery" personified. Great photo of you and Matthew, by the way.

Your picture today is beautiful. You are the picture of strength.

I know what you mean about pushing yourself to show people that this, THIS is what cancer looks like. I never see bald heads around here, except in the Cancer Center and the Wellness Community, and the disease has been rather invisible to me over the years.

I wear my bald head in public too, to remind passerby that we're out there, and that we're still people too.

Wish we could walk down the street bald together sometime!

Delurking to tell you that you are truly a beautiful and brave person. Remember that being courageous means being scared.

Here from WhyMommy; I will be reading your blog daily; you are beautiful and by all accounts, brave. What a woman - I am utterly impressed with your entire outlook. Strength and peace to you as you fight this.

So gorgeous, Kim... You are just so perfectly gorgeous, in every, single way possible, both inside and out!

xo CGF