I know what it means to be brave

Written by: Mercy H.
May 21, 2021

I know what it means to be brave.


I know what that word means. 

when you live 

knowing this thing 

inside of you 

has caused so much 


it’s hard to forget. 

I know what it means to be scared, 

to tremble at night, 

dreading test results and bad news. 

Ignorance is not bliss, 

not when the other option tells a story 

of sleepless nights and nightless stays, all bleeding into  


not when a simple scan can spell disaster for 

your future, 

your plans, 

your hopes, 

your body, 

uprooting everything to hurt. 

I know what it means to be in pain, 

to clutch your body, 

ever curling tighter in hopes that 

if I only make myself small enough 

the pain 

will do the same. 

To dread a glance at the clock,  

ever wishing the days would pass faster, 



there is always 





I know what it means to be pitied,  

to feel eyes from  

every angle upon my shoulders, 

their gazes caressing my bald head, 

cooing encouraging words and 

melancholy apologies, 

eyebrows furrowed and eyes wide 

as they witness tubing 

emerge from my body. 

I know what it means to be an imposter, 

to have 

diminished your experience so much 

in order to 

survive within the darkest thoughts 

that you feel as though you do not deserve this new kind of love.  All of the love, the gifts, the virtues attributed to you because of your fight, 

all should go to someone who deserves them. 

The reminders of how 


this battle has been to me do nothing to end off these feelings.  I’m not terminally ill, 

not constantly in pain,  

sometimes close to barely ok, 

yet certainly not healthy,


I float around, 

no category feeling representative of my struggles and victories. I know what it means to be lost.  

I know what it means to mourn, 

to envision all that could have been 

and all that won’t be. 

Wishes fall upon my closed ears, 

my mind’s defense blocking all trains of thought 

for the conductor 

is sick. 


I know what that word means. 

But I also know what it means to be brave. 

To walk with force and resolve into something 

I already know 

is going to be hell. 

I know how to smile and wave at family and friends when they say hello  even if 

I feel like crying. 

I know how to look on the bright side, 

or even simply the less dim side, 

just to see my parents try and 

secretly sigh their relief. 

I know what it means to fight like my life depends on it because 

it does. 

I know what it means to look at a new patient and see 

their hollow eyes filled with unwelcome chaos and held-back tears,  a concoction of fear, confusion, 

and loneliness, even though the room is filled. 

It is all reminiscent of my 

first step into my now-second



Watching the new face, flushed with apprehension and the feeling that they don’t belong there, 

they shouldn’t be there, 

they can’t be here, 

but deep down 

they know 

what pain they must endure to walk out of that clinic again,  truly walk away without any plans of returning, I can’t help but feel powerless against this 

evil entity 

that sucks the life from some 

and takes the lives of others. 

But then I remember where I am, 

on the rocky road to recovery, 

a soldier who has endured 



hostage situations, 

all of it, 

and yet here I am, 

still fighting… 

and winning. 

I know, 

better than most. 

what it means to be brave.