What is courage? Is going into a burning building to rescue a child courageous? Is never letting anyone see me cry courageous? Maybe courage is taking that next step without knowing where my feet will land. Maybe it is waking up every day and walking out the door to face the world. It could be like the cowardly lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” The lion thought he didn’t have courage, but it was always there waiting for him to find it.

Courage entails all of these and much, much more. Fear is part of courage, but that courage allows me to overcome that fear. Courage gives me the strength to not back down to any obstacle. I am able to move past walls. I can go around, over, under, or through any obstacle in my path. Fear drives me forward and makes me not want to look in the rearview mirror. Fear of both the known and the unknown fuels my courage and keeps me moving forward. Fear is facing cancer and gaining the courage I need to move past that fear.

Bravery is also a component of courage. When I think of bravery, I think of a soldier serving in Iraq, but what about a teenager starting their first day of High School or that five year old starting Kindergarten? It sometimes takes a brave person to make that transition and take that step. Does this also mean they are courageous for taking that next step? It always takes courage to take that next step. Choosing the next step after a cancer diagnosis takes a brave person. It takes an incredible amount of courage to decide that next step.

Faith is another component of courage. If my faith is strong enough, do I automatically have courage for any situation? I do think the strength of my faith helps to determine how much courage I have. I also think courage is drawn from the people closest to me, both in distance and in my heart. Faith helps fuel my courage in my cancer battle. I believe that I will make it to the other side of treatment and that belief gives me the needed courage to get me past this very low point in my life.

Strength is the final component of courage. I’m not talking about someone moving a heavy couch or lifting an air conditioner. I am referring to the strength in a person’s soul, in my soul. That strength shines though in my determination and resolve when faced with my cancer diagnosis. This strength fuels my courage. I also believe my inner strength can be inherited. My grandmother was extremely stubborn. That stubbornness translated into incredible strength and courage. I truly believe I have my grandmother’s soul and that knowledge gives me the strength and courage to battle on. I know I need to remain strong and that continued strength brings out the courage locked deep inside me.

My niece, April, is 26 years old and I see her blossoming into a remarkable young woman. I received a text message from her last week that made me cry. She asked me if I had heard of the movie, “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.” I had watched it on Lifetime several years back. I asked her why she wondered. She replied, “Me and a friend are watching it and I thought of you because the girl in it is strong like you.” I have always considered myself strong but hearing it from my niece made me realize that I AM strong. I am showing the world how strong and courageous I am and how I will beat my cancer and become another survivor. These tears that roll down my cheeks are also courageous. I am not afraid to let anyone see me cry. Being vulnerable is not a crutch, but it is one of the most courageous things I have ever been.

Karen M Fries
June 19, 2012

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