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
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
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
eyebrows furrowed and eyes wide
as they witness tubing
emerge from my body.
I know what it means to be an imposter,
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
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
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
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
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
all of it,
and yet here I am,
better than most.
what it means to be brave.