Bravery or Courage?

I have had this post crashing around in my head for several weeks now. My biggest internal struggle has been whether or not to write these thoughts down. You know, the "somethings are better left unsaid" debate. But for those that follow me you realize this internal war with words is basically futile with me and the words come out, sometimes like lava. I guess if folks don't like it they just won't read me any more. So here goes.

It all started back in May, before my lung recurrence with Angelina Jolie's announcement of her double mastectomy. The media had a hay day because she had not only made her decision, she had already undergone the procedure and to add to the frenzy had completed her reconstruction. The evening news covered her story locally and nationally hailing her as a brave woman taking things into her own hands. It did not take long for social media to start "bashing" her and the announcement. The most criticism, surprisingly, coming from within the breast cancer community. Angelina was very forthcoming with details concerning why she chose to have the procedure done and at times they were quite personal. Not that it was any of our business, but her mother had died of cervical cancer and she had researched her risks and her family history extensively before she made her choice. Her choice took courage. Announcing it to the world took courage. I am confident that she had experienced fear, pain and sadness like any human might and once she made her decision she had to be brave to endure it. Many have had to be brave like Angelina but she showed real courage when she chose to go public. (You are probably thinking "Ah, this is just verb-age."  I urge you to read on.) Her publicist most likely discussed with her the pros and cons of revealing this. They had to know there would be a public frenzy both positive and negative. People were harsh on social media saying some people can't afford the testing or she wasn't really brave because she didn't actually have cancer. Are you serious here? This woman under went a double mastectomy that was nobody's damn business! It took incredible courage to speak up to help others. She knew there would be critics but pressed on and, because of her, the referrals to genetic clinics have tripled! She has had to be brave since her announcement to face her nay-Sayers but courage came first. It takes courage to make a choice and bravery to endure it.

Now for the second event that started the war of words within me. The dancing doctor story. I am sure most of you have heard about or viewed the viral video captured on someone's iPhone of the OB/GYN, Dr. Deborah Cohan, dancing in the OR suite just prior to having her double mastectomy. Her, and the entire OR team (her co-workers) were busting a groove to Beyounce's "Get Me Bodied". Her goal was to encourage other women. ("What's the problem?" you think.) Again, the news media loved it hailing her as "brave" and social media, although seeming to embrace it at first , started an under current of criticism. I was surprised at the number of people tweeting and posting that she wasn't being honest about how things really were and that it was not a moment for "celebrating" and that the media made "regular" cancer patients to appear "not brave". Oddly, what I saw was something different. I saw a physician that was faced with taking her own medicine. The very thing she supported her patients through was being required of her. She displayed a joy of life and living and said loud and clear that cancer did not own her or rob her of her joy and then had the courage to put it out there. The media got it right calling her brave. She is brave.She will have to be brave as she moves forward with her treatment. Nobody said or even implied that other women undergoing a mastectomy aren't brave. The choice to put the video out there took courage. Dr. Cohan was showing who she was as an individual and her joy is integral with her very being! She was showing others that she is joyful despite her circumstances. Maybe it was just the encouragement somebody needed. I know I was inspired! Again I say it takes courage to make a choice and bravery to endure it.

Now for the third and final happening, the tipping point that resulted in these words spilling out of me. The story of GMA's Amy Robach. You know her. The correspondent that did an "on air" mammogram to kick off "Pinktober" (talk about courage) only to discover that she had a cancerous growth. Not only did she display courage through her choices she had to call on her bravery to cope with it publicly. Again, medias darling became social medias punching bag. They were out in force questioning whether or not mammograms were safe in general and critical that she did not reveal specific enough details about her type of breast cancer and reasons why she chose the mastectomy. This woman sat on a couch crying in front of all the world and for all that raw emotion and the bravery she displayed after her courageous choice to share it with the universe she was criticized for "not doing enough". Who knows how many women, after seeing her story, called and scheduled a mammogram and, of those, who was faced with making a courageous choice and was made too call on the bravery that lies within? Once more, it takes courage to make a choice and bravery to endure it.

The media runs stories that are "newsworthy". What does this mean? Merriam-Webster defines it as "interesting enough to the general public to warrant reporting". All the stories I mentioned above definitely fit that definition. Are they "feel good" "happy ending" stories. Maybe in some respects yes. But we don't know what happens when the cameras aren't there. If you've been touched by cancer as a patient, spouse, family, friend or caregiver you realize that fear has been experienced, tears have been shed and pain endured. There is bravery behind the scenes and nothing "feels good" about that. As for the "happy ending", although I don't know how any of these stories will turn out, if you have read my previous blog entry you already know I feel the happy ending is optional. You don't have to agree with me or even like me but this is the truth: It took great courage for me to chose to treat my cancer and I have been calling on my bravery ever since to endure it.

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Michele, There is no doubt that you are a brave and courageous woman, and your blog – and your willingness to speak to the media about your cancer, whose very name most people don’t want to hear, has helped many others. You have continued to fight and that inspires those of us who don't have quite the same challenge that you do. Remember that a few decades ago it was considered shocking for Betty Ford to say in public that she had breast cancer…no one said anything in public in those days about mammograms or masectomies…I’d guess that discussing her double masectomy in public was not likely to increase her box-office appeal, so Jolie undertook this knowing it might hurt her in some ways. We all have to stand up and speak up – for a long time I had trouble talking about being raped, as I thold myself it was just something that happened to me – but then when the HPV vaccination debates cranked up I understood that the threat of sexual assault was the rebuttal to all those parents who insisted their children would be chaste until marriage, and I started to talk. As you say it’s not a “feel good” moment.. Besos.
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oops. "told myself!"
You do have the most eloquent way with words. Not only everything you say is always apt but you put into words many peoples thoughts. Strangely enough every time I feel we haven't heard from you recently you post. Are you through your last round of treatment & how are you? In my thoughts Annabelle
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I am done with my latest round. As a matter of fact I head to Houston for a PET scan and my re-evaluation next week. I am feeling well and have been working a lot. Which is why my writing has suffered. Hugs to you! Michele
Well said. I must admit I was a little critical of Angelina Jolie at first. My first thought was publicity. Shortly after her surgery her aunt died from the same cancer. No, Angelina did not have cancer, but she sure was a likely candidate for it. I applaud all three of these brave ladies who were so unselfish as to want to help others. Difficult to find fault with that...
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Great post, as always, Michele. I'm with Annabelle - I was just thinking of you this morning and thought it had been awhile since your last post, and here you are! Congrats on finishing your latest round! I will be praying for excellent results on your upcoming test. Big hugs, Danean
I agree with you. Hate the naysayers criticizing these women for their choices. Never understood why people would put so much energy into being negative for questioning choices of other people that they have never met. I'll be thinking positive thoughts for your upcoming scan. Hoping for excellent results for you. Hugs
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I thought all three women were just awesome Michele. I feel that way about everyone here. I have never seen such beautiful people in my life, including you. I wish you all would move to my town and we could have an explosion of positive energy to overcome the negative, but then that would be heaven wouldn't it? hugs and love Sabina
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Here's to all the brave people who fight this disease with such courage--and that includes you, my dear friend! Hugs!
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Well, a routine mammogram in 2004 saved me. I had pre-cancerous cells and had to have an open-excision biopsy (they make a wire "fence" around the microcalcifications and take everything in-between out. I had 8cm removed. A "5" on a cancer scale of "5/7"). I cannot take estrogen in any form; but I am tempted! Especially after the OB/GYN this summer, after me not having an exam since 2012 (complete hyster back then) said, "Well, it's obvious there is no estrogen there!" THANK you very much . . . . That said, I DO believe, and said it here, that Angelina Jolie having a double mastectomy when her mom died of CERVICAL cancer, did not-and doesn't make sense. I feel a complete hysterectomy would have been more appropriate. But, the breasts get more attention. Call me a . . bad person, but that is what I would have done in her circumstances. Actually, I would not have done anything but to be on alert.
Addendum: I know I sound so callous. I do believe Jolie said she wanted to be around for her kids, was scared and so said, "Take it out!" I still stand by thinking the breasts over the cervix didn't make sense. Scary, scary, scary, these LIFE decisions.
I agree with you Carol. I have also read of people who go through a preventative mastectomy and then cancer shows up in the lymph nodes anyway. I think it was a choice made out of fear. I also think using the media can harm or spread misinformation rather than help.
She carries the BrCA1 mutation. It is responsible for both breast and cervical cancer vulnerability. Her mother died of cervical and her aunt died of breast cancer, they informed her that her odds of getting breast cancer were 87% and the odds of cervical 50%. She went with the higher risk procedure first. I don't think you sound callous, I think you just didn't know. That's my point I guess of the whole piece. Nobody knows except the few people we let in and she let the whole world in on her dilemma. Watching 2 very close relatives die because of that gene mutation would scare me too. She also discussed having the whole works out at a future date as well. Idk if that helps or sounds argumentative. LoL. I respect your words. Michele
No, Michelle, I like to throw information around. That is how we learn, no? Years ago, after the one hormone study was stopped (can't think of it) due to horrendous side effects, a co-worker, someone whom I love and admire, tested positive for those genes and had a preventative double mastectomy--I think she had a lump on one side as well. She's still kicking and in good health. It is just hard to know what to do sometimes. Hugs to you and family. :)
Great convo and good for your friend! I love when things turn out like that :)
I love reading your posts Michelle, they never fail to amaze me how well you write. I wished we would of met in different circumstances other than a cancer blog but you are true inspiration to me. I pray for a clear PET-scan for you and looking forward to your next post. Oh yeah, AND I totally agree, 4 courageous women who are brave to no end.
I also think all three women were incredibly brave to do what they did. There will always be critics now matter what you do. Aesop's fable about the donkey, the boy, and the old man is more true today than can't please everyone. Wishing you the best on your upcoming re-evaluation, Michele. Hugs, Mari
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Michele, In 1986, at the age of 28, I was diagnosised with stage 3 breast cancer. I had very little family history at that time (a great aunt). I decided to have a lumpectomy chemo and radiation. 25 years later I was diagnosised with stage 4 anal cancer. Because the tumor was large my surgeon sent me to an OB/Gyn to be examined and get her recommendations. On my first visit, she informed me that she wanted to remove both of my breasts, my uterus, fallopian tubes, part of my vagina (which she said I wouldn't even miss!) some lymph nodes in my groin, the fat pad on my stomach, plus I am not even sure what else. I left there feeling completely freaked out and in total shock. Then some wise person said to me, you don't have to do anything you don't want to! So I sat down and weighed my options and decided that enough "pieces" of me had already been removed and I would deal with the problem at hand...the stage 4 anal cancer. My point is simply this; everyone has difficult decisions that they will have to make in their life, and live decisions did not effect anyone other than myself and my family. I did not "share it " with the world (in fact I told very few people about my breast cancer for over 15 years!) My choice , my desicion, my life. My only regret about these other women is that their decision taken public might cause someone to make a similar choice as theirs without thinking about how they might live with it later. Always, Maya
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Food for thought Maya. Whatever choices (about anything) that public figures make may definitely impact others to make similar choices. Someone could read my blog and do the same I suppose. Not that I think my blog is famous, I just think that folks who can be easily influenced just exist as such. I think we are all responsible for our personal health choices. All these women sought physician care and consultation and stated as such. Heck, one of them was a doctor! I would like to believe that no physician would cut off a woman's breasts or give her chemo and radiation based solely on personal request without the medical evidence to back it up. That would be malpractice and in this day of evidence based and medicine and law suits I'm just not sure it happens that often. Their choices could instill unwarranted fear in the people
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Vital Info


October 3, 2011

Click Here

January 31, 1963

Cancer Info

Anal Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the anus

February 5, 2010

Stage 4

2.1 - 3.0 cm

Grade 3


As much as possible

Proceeds from my published blog donated monthly

It is a thief

You have to live every day of your life and stay positive :)

Donate $$ to the anal cancer foundation. Raising awareness saves lives!

Is there anything good about poison?

Bone, lung recurrence 9/20/2012

Cancer Center of Kansas, MD Anderson

Bland diet, sitz baths, take your drugs...nobody gets extra credit for suffering.

Talk, talk, talk to somebody. I chose to write.

April 20, 2010

September 20, 2010

Rectal bleeding, itching, sciatic pain. (thought my hemorhoid was acting up)

My blog has been published and proceeds go to The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation.


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