Day 5. Inspiration: Just doing my job

January 5th, 2013 § 10 comments

From June, 2009. I’ve been thinking about writing a new post about the word “inspirational” for a few weeks now. I am sure I will someday soon. For now, I want to share this post from a few years ago that a few people mentioned as one of their favorites. Of course some things have changed since then. I need to think about some of the things I’ve said here.

But I do still believe in setting an example.
I still believe in doing my best.
I still believe in doing as much as I can for as long as I can.


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 a white page?

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.
Or hour.
Or minute.
Or second.
And you just want the pain to end.
Some way.
Any way.
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.
A spark.
A resource.
A friend.
A wife.
A lover.
A mother.
A daughter.

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.
For anyone.

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 inspiration.
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.


§ 10 Responses to Day 5. Inspiration: Just doing my job"

  • Jessica says:

    As always, I am and deeply touched and humbled when I read your posts… Keep inspiring, Lisa, and most importantly, keep writing!!

  • Louise G. says:

    You inspire me Lisa because I experience you as real. Honest. Vulnerable.

    And, you remind me that being real, honest vulnerable is important. It takes courage.

    And being courageous means fearlessly living life the way it is.

    And in reading your words I am inspired to keep my focus on fearlessly living life the way it is.

  • Laura says:

    Thank you!

  • The thing I find that makes you inspirational to others with cancer is your having the talent and the guts to share your experiences and thoughts openly. It isn’t easy to bare yourself to the world. But you are doing it with grace and dignity, and many people are benefiting from your writing. That’s inspirational!

  • Katherine C. James says:

    I agree with David: having the courage to share your feelings, the full spectrum of your complex feelings, about something that was, until recently, a taboo to discuss at all, is inspirational.

  • I’m glad you can find meaning and satisfaction in being called an inspiration. It sets my teeth on edge when most people call me an inspiration. I guess it depends on whether you are actually trying to be inspirational and/or whether the people who are saying it have walked a similar path.

  • dglassme says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Inspiration is a breath of fresh air and, literally, the act of drawing air into the lungs. Inspiration is an essential function of life. Inspiration is what motivates artists to create their works of art. Inspiration keeps me living, breathing and creating. Inspiration is the desire to pay it forward and inspire others. Keep doing your job, Lisa, because it’s what you do best!

  • Tim says:

    Lisa…I know what you mean: inspiration can seem like an overused word. I think inspiration comes from how you live in your present circumstances- no matter what you’re facing. Based on your writings here…and the feelings you express to document what you’re going through, I will say you are inspirational.

    I flash back about two years ago…my 64 y.o. mother in the hospital for heart failure. Her condition worsened considerably and at one point, she spent nearly 2 months in the hospital as they tried getting rid of the fluids in her body. The word “terminal” was never used, but things were not looking good for her. As her only child, I did my best to support and comfort her. I remember sitting with her in her hospital room while watching sitcoms and hearing her laugh. At times I felt surprised that she could laugh because inside, I felt terrified. She later made it home for a few months and I will always think of her attitude during these final months as heroic. I’m sure she was terrified, too…and did her best to stay strong for my sake…but I will always think of how she handled herself as incredibly inspiring and courageous. She was and will always be my hero.

  • Jen Busby says:

    I stumbled across your blog today through a google search on how to comfort my terminal mother. I have spent the past 7 hours following your journey. I thank you for your candidness, your truth, your fears and hopes, and the general roller coaster you have been riding for 6 years. I have shed many tears here today, but I have found comfort too. I’m terribly sorry that you and your family are going through this. But I thank you for sharing it and touching my life today. One day your children will fully understand what an amazing mother they’ve been so blessed to have.

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