Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Big is Your Brave?

Ernest Hemingway once said, "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

I'm often told that I am strong. I've been told by friends or family that I'm the strongest or bravest person they know. I find it embarrassing and always a little surprising. Bravery and strength come in many forms, and I don't think of myself as being particularly strong or brave. I'm driven, and I'm stubborn enough to push through Crohn's problems because I refuse to lose to it. But brave? Strong? I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm often terrified. I'm terrified that I won't recover to my pre-surgery self. I'm terrified that I won't be able to run anymore. I'm terrified that this surgery/infection/flare will be the one from which I won't be able to recover.

Everyone in this world has legitimate struggles, and it's how we take the punches that reveal our character. I try to be grateful for my struggle - grateful that I can handle it; grateful that it isn't worse. But sometimes I feel down and weak. It would be so easy to live in that place and let the negative keep me there.

This summer has been brutal. A routine surgery turning into a second not routine surgery and then getting a blood clot. My recovery has been much slower than I expected, and I'm frustrated. My body is finally starting to feel somewhat normal, but the hits keep coming. Three weeks ago a part of my incision split open, and it has yet to heal.

I'm in the middle of a Crohn's flare that last week's IV infusion (that I've received every six weeks for 12 years) hasn't contained. Today I started a course of antibiotics to try to get my Crohn's under control. I'm on blood thinners for the next six months, and I've had a hard time getting to a "therapeutic" level. Earlier this week I had to give myself injections in the stomach again to get to therapeutic. This is all happening while I'm trying to be back 100%: at work, beginning running again, and starting our busy travel season. I think the pushing is what makes me seem strong. Pushing, for me, is just survival. 

I've had six abdominal surgeries in the last 14 years. They've used the same scar - right down the middle of my stomach - for four of those surgeries. When I feel like I'm not being strong or brave, I take a look at my scars and marvel at what my body has been through. In those moments of self doubt I know that I can push through this rough time, and I'll be fully recovered soon even if it may not be on my own timeline. But sometimes I have to remind myself that I am stronger than I think I am. I am braver than I ever thought I could be. When I think it's too much and I'm at the point where I want to give up, I am stronger than that.

A photo of this mess of scars? That just happened.
I read stories about incredibly people whose strength continues to inspire me. People like Alex Scott, the girl who suffered all of her young life with cancer but wanted only to help others. Alex's Lemonade Stand, a charity that raises money to fight childhood cancer, is her legacy. 

I think of Louis Zamperini, a runner, war hero, and survivor of unthinkable conditions at a POW camp. His story is told in the book Unbroken, and his bravery is remarkable. Louis recently passed away at the age of 97, and his legend will continue to inspire me.

When I think of the tremendous struggles of others, I am inspired to be braver and stronger. I don't think my brave is really that big, but my grit and moxie...those are what keep me going. We all struggle, but those struggles always make us stronger. How big is your brave?

*This song is about bravery in standing up for yourself, but the message resonates. Plus it's been stuck in my head all day.

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