There's a older gentleman who started coming to the oncologist for his chemo treatments. He walked in by himself, unlike the rest of us who had our friends/spouses with us. The place was crowded that Tuesday, every seat full and plenty of IVs to go around. Larry was sitting next to me, and they asked him to give up his seat for this man.
I looked at the man who was to take his seat. He held himself rigidly, as if there were a steel bar in his spine. His brow was furrowed, a look of concern on his face. His hands were almost clenched into fists. I knew that look. He was terrified. The nurses had told him to have a seat several times, but he didn't seem to hear.
"Come on over here and sit right down next to me!' I smiled at him and patted the empty seat. I could see that I had his attention; he blinked at me a couple of times, and then moved to sit down beside me. As soon as he sat down, I made some inane comment about him being new, but he did not seem to hear me. He just sat there, lost in his fears, as they hooked him up with his IV and got him started. The lady on the other side of me was talking nonstop about food, and after a couple of attempts at quiet conversation in a room full of people, I just returned to my crochet and left him alone. He sat upright in the chair, never leaning back. He left after about 30 minutes, stiffly shuffling down the hall. I tried to see if someone was out in the waiting room to pick him up, but they were changing my bag and I didn't see him leave.
The day after my chemo, I was back for my booster shot(it's a shot to raise my white blood cell count that costs...$8,000. DOLLARS. I call it the Money Shot.). The same gentleman was there, and he had the same terrified look on his face. Usually after the first treatment, the anxiety is reduced, but this guy looked much the same as he did the day before. We were facing each other this time, so I put on my nicest smile instead of my usual grimace and stared right at him while I listened to the same woman from the day before continue her discussion of food. I was starting to get a little concerned, because the look on the poor man's face was almost catatonic, as if his mind had gone far away.
After they gave me my shot and said I could go, and went over to that man and took his hand. He looked up at me, and I smiled at him again, and I told him that he would be okay. Whether he heard me or not I wasn't sure, but I said it anyway. I turned to leave.
"Are you going to be here tomorrow?" I heard a small voice say. I turned around and apologized for not being able to see him tomorrow. I reassured him that he would be fine. Whether that is true or not, I think that is what he needed to hear; he seemed to relax.
Being brave is not just about the big moments, when you're facing the Big
Bad and there's no way out. Bravery can be found in quiet moments as well. Being brave is sometimes about just getting out of bed. Being brave is speaking up instead of keeping silent. Being brave is not hiding who you really are because someone might say something. Being brave is raising your hand in class, even when you're not sure of your answer. Being brave is opening the door of that doctor's office, and walking in. Being brave is showing up for chemo by yourself, no matter how scary it is.
We are all brave in our own way.