What does it mean to “be an inspiration”? A few people have said that to me recently: I am an inspiration. At first I laugh. I guess I’m an inspiration because I’m still alive. Maybe that’s enough.
What’s inspirational about me? Trust me, I’m not searching for platitudes here. I’m trying to get at “what makes someone an inspiration” and why do people think I and so many other breast cancer survivors qualify? There’s definitely more than one day’s blog in this question.
Is it being a mother and worrying about your children more than yourself? No. That’s what every mother does.
Is it summoning strength to confront chemo when it’s your greatest fear?
Is it putting a smile on your face when you are crumbling inside?
Is it speaking the words, “I have cancer” to your children, your friends, your husband, your parents, your in-laws, your brother, and all of the people in your life enough times that eventually it starts to sound normal?
Is “inspirational” when you offer to show your post-mastectomy body to women so that they will know the results just aren’t as scary as they are thinking they will be?
Is it answering everything and anything people want to know?
Is it putting words and feelings in black on white?
The essence of inspiration is being strong.
When you least want to be.
When you are faking it.
When you lack it.
When you have to dig deep for it.
When your kids need dinner and you want to vomit from the chemo.
When you are too weak to climb the stairs.
And you don’t think you can get through another day.
And you just want the pain to end.
Just have it go away.
When your pride is gone.
Dignity is gone.
All of it.
Being inspirational means being tough.
It means feeling rotten but not wanting others to.
It means wanting to put others at ease with how you are doing.
It means being a lightning rod for everything bad.
A catalyst for everything good.
It means telling your parents you feel okay when you don’t.
A little fib so they will go home and get some rest for the week.
Take some time off for themselves before they come back in 8 days and do it all over again.
A break so they don’t have to see their little girl suffer anymore
Because 6 days in a row is enough.
Because looking good makes others feel better about how you are doing.
So you put makeup on.
And dress well.
And put a big smile on your face.
So they will think you are feeling good.
And when you switch the topic of conversation, they will go along with it–
They will believe you when you say you are feeling better.
Okay, so maybe I am inspirational. I don’t call it inspirational. I can only admit to the smaller things. The micro things. Inspirational sounds big. Important. It’s hard to accept that one.
But I think I’m convinced.
The reason I’m going to finally concede is that I just realized something:
That was my goal.
Except I wasn’t calling it that.
I was just calling it doing it right.
I was calling it setting an example.
I was trying to show my family, especially my daughter, how you can tackle an obstacle– a big one.
I was just doing my job.
June 15, 2009