No Bravery Required

There’s that question again.

Are we brave?

Only this time, there’s a twist.  It’s not whether we’re brave dealing with the cancer we’ve been dealt, but whether or not it takes bravery to speak about it. To fess up to those that don’t know or understand our situation.

Blogger, ChemoBabe recently posed the question on her facebook page and while some people agreed and some didn’t, it was the mention of one word that struck a chord with me.

Vulnerability.

Sharing a cancer diagnosis leaves us open, exposed to whatever belief is held by the person in front of us and most likely, it differs from ours.

I used to think writing this blog for anonymous readers was the equivalent of talking about it.  But, that didn’t take bravery.  Writing to cyberspace was easy. I could send all my thoughts out there, turn off the computer and face my daily life where only a select few knew the story.  It was there, in reality where it got hard.

Disclosing cancer for long distance friends, old time friends or new ones is downright scary.  Everyone wears a public face, but to unmask mine, by admitting this happened was out of my grasp and truthfully, it’s a burden I continue to carry.  I even wrote a post not long ago stating I wouldn’t tell old friends.  I’d greet them at some reunion, slyly omitting this life-changer, as if it never touched me.

Volunteer my diagnosis or not?  What’s the answer? Why so fearful?  Nothing good comes from doing nothing, so why not be honest?  Something good may come of it.

Logic tells me I should no longer feel so raw, so susceptible to another’s opinion…yet I do.  It lingers.  Even after blogging all these months, it’s with me. My husband recently ran into an old neighbor and told him about our last two years.  As he filled me in, my heart dropped, “Oh…you told him?”

That’s supposed to be just fine.  There’s no secret here.  I’m as public as can be…in a private sort of way and there’s the issue.

Am I in or am I out?

Last week, in a room filled with survivors (for lack of a better word) all dedicated to raising money for one of my favorite non-profit organizations, I still held back.  Not the cancer in this case, from the nature of the group that was a given, but the fact that I blog about it.

Amazing, really.  The exact audience I strive to reach all around me and still I hesitate.  Easy enough telling these strangers how I found the group or why their services are so valuable, but I kept quiet about the blog.  As if there were some other reason I was invited, knowing there wasn’t.  I knew it was the blog that brought me there, but I couldn’t say it.  Couldn’t just say, “Hi, my name is Stacey and I blog about my experience with breast cancer.”

Vulnerable with a capital V.  

What was my silence really protecting?  What’s the worst that could happen?  I knew I couldn’t continue to be half way out of the breast cancer closet and after a while, I summoned the courage to say it.  Lucky for me, the first person I told knew the blog and liked it.  She was lovely, her reaction, beyond kind and happy to meet me, this face behind the words.

It was my first time meeting a reader I didn’t know. This lady helped reaffirm why I write and why owning up to my experience matters.  I just wish it were easier.

Breast cancer isn’t a thing to be ashamed of.  We are not responsible for this horrible thing, no matter how we might blame ourselves.  It is simply something that happened to us and bravery shouldn’t be required to share our stories.  I’m trying really hard to remember that.

Do you find yourself still holding back?