Adventures in Bravery

Dear Acute Myeloid Leukemia,

We’ve become very familiar these past two months and I still think you are a stranger. I can’t see your face, I can only see you reflected in my own. When I try to retreat into my thoughts, you are there too, shaping my ideas and warping the plans I’ve made for the future. I’m learning to live with the unknown.

People are telling me that I have courage. They either believe it or wish it upon me. It’s hard to recognize this in myself. An act of bravery implies that there is choice. I looked at other people for examples of courage this month to teach me what it means. This is who I found making extraordinary brave choices:

Fariba, who sits all night at her son Jesse’s bedside, but chooses to support other parents and cook spaghetti dinners for her friends.

My parents, who when most people are becoming grandparents adopted kids.

My friends, giving birth to their first child. They inspire me with the choice, the risk and the beauty of jumping into the unknown.

My aunt Jackie, helping her mother stricken with carcinoid and raising awareness for the disease.

Eleanore, who makes the world a better place even as she grieves the loss of her daughter. She sets an example for her son John, who chooses to make me laugh, hook me up with a root beer and swap memories of his sister.

To name just a few…. Brittany, Jill and Ada, childhood cancer survivors, who choose to dedicate their life to kids going through the same stuff. They are great role models for 11 year old, leukemia survivor Matt, who visits on the oncology unit to give support and honors the memories of his friends who lost their battle, even though it feels sad.

Jaime, chooses to be a friend for people during the darkest times and brighten them. Ashley, volunteers to help people in poverty every Friday. Bethany, follows her passions wherever they take her and dreams BIG! Joel, who instead of retiring is a leader in helping people deal with trauma.

And Gina. At 15 years old she gave me advice about coping with uncertainty and a life-threatening illness. She told me, “…don’t let cancer get in the way of living your life. Have fun and do the things you want to do.”

Thank you for the lessons on strength. Courage is the choosing to do the thing that is not expected or easy. It’s choosing to confront reality instead of running away from it. The bravery is in giving the world your best face, when you are being faced with fear. I’m so grateful for all my everyday hero friends and family. Thank you for pointing the spotlight on what makes us strong.

Sincerely,
Melissa

P.S. As much as you are a stranger to me, endurance and bravery are my friends. I see your face in my own, but I see courage reflecting back too!! This little bee is brave and I’ve got MORE to do.

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