I thought about dying my hair pink. I thought about getting a tattoo. I thought of jumping off the high-dive board. I thought of driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought about eating escargot. I thought of shaving my head. And really, these wouldn't take courage for me, just a little bit of dare.
So I thought about the things I've done that are courageous. And I found a common tie to all of them. This is my definition of courage:
Courage is having the second child. Courage is having the second chemotherapy treatment. Courage is getting married for the second time. Courage is shaving my head before my hair falls out. Courage is quitting my job to do cancer full-time. Courage is asking my husband to sit by me while I throw-up, for the third time that day. Courage is crying for my mother to hold me in her arms while I weep in exhaustion. Courage is asking my neighbor to help me change the sheets on my bed. Courage is going to the gym bald, puffy, weak, gray, exhausted. Courage is smiling. Courage is getting back on my bike. Courage is climbing to the top of the mountain, the second time. Courage is job-hunting. Courage is saying "no" to the job I need but don't want. Courage is having a mammogram three months after finishing treatment. Courage is going shopping with down-soft gray stubble covering my head and no hat. Courage is returning to the classroom with chemo-brain. Courage is becoming friends with women who have cancer. Courage is listening to other women's stories. Courage is sharing my story, my truth.
Courage comes with "doing again" what was hard the first time.
As I have pondered the speaker's request, I have come to a great realization. I'm a survivor, I'm stronger, I'm a hero, I'm a warrior, but more than anything, I'm a courageous woman - I got back on that bike after I fell and blew out my elbow, I had my second chemo after the first made me so deathly ill, I share my story - in all of its utter-truthfulness. I am courage. This, this is the face of courage. And I am proud to wear the scars that tell my story.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move beyond that fear.