Hey everybody! Foda here! I am so happy to have the fabulous Fumbledore guest posting for me today! She is wise, introspective, and super fabulous, and has been a beacon of hope and inspiration for me personally for some time. So without further ado, here she is!
Today’s Words of Wisdom:
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
“There are all kinds of courage.” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Dear Fans of the Foda,
Allow me to introduce myself: I am Leanne Sowul, curator of Words From the Sowul, but in the Female Yoda’s universe, I am also known as Fumbledore. (Being named after someone so wise puts a lot of pressure on this guest post, doesn’t it? I’ll try not to let the Foda down!) Although at first I was a little uncomfortable- though flattered- about being named after such an iconic character, I realized that the Foda cast me in the part because I can fill a role similar to Dumbledore’s. The reason he’s such a good mentor to Harry is that he’s fought dark magic for many years, and even defeated a great dark wizard in his youth. In a similar way, while the Foda is currently in the midst of her battle with chronic illness, I’ve already fought my battle: I had thyroid cancer for several years as a teenager, and have now been in remission for over a decade. This gives me a perspective on illness that I hope can be helpful to people who are still fighting.
Back when I had cancer, one of the comments I often received from both strangers and friends was, “You’re so brave.” I’ve since learned that this is a common thing to say to anyone suffering from a long-term illness, but at the time, it brought up uncomfortable internal questions. Was I really brave?
I didn’t feel brave. I wasn’t choosing to be brave. I had a disease that needed to be fought. This was a fact that had to be accepted; it wasn’t going to change just because I wanted it to. The doctors and my parents gave me a plan of action- surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, a myriad of other tests, thyroid replacement hormone- and I had to follow it, or I would die. There was no choice in the matter. To my mind, bravery wasn’t really a factor, and it certainly wasn’t something I chose to feel.
As I’ve gotten older, though, and gained perspective on the cancer-time, I’ve started to question my reaction to “You’re so brave.” I didn’t think I felt brave. But what does bravery feel like, anyway? It probably feels a lot like fear. It also contains some determination, an element of stubbornness, and a lot of hope. I felt all of those things when I was going through cancer. Like Harry Potter, who was constantly frustrated by his friends marveling at his ability to face Voldemort again and again (along with dragons, basilisks and a bunch of other scary creatures), I’d agree that doing something brave doesn’t feel as cool as you’d think. It just feels scary and a little gutsy.
Then there’s the element of choice. If I was brave, did I choose to be? I didn’t have much choice about following the path that my doctors laid out for me. But I did make choices about how to follow that path. After a conversation with my pediatrician, in which I expressed concerns that thyroid medication would affect my personality, I made a conscious decision to keep being myself. I made another conscious decision keep my life the same as it was before, to the best of my (and my family’s) ability. I tried to avoid missing school, but when I had to, I made up all my work. When I was there, I was fully there, participating in class, joining clubs and activities, and making friends. Those were all choices. And maybe that’s where the bravery comes in. In order to be brave, I had to figure out how to be myself. I had to figure out where I could draw strength. I drew it from my friends, from my activities, from all the elements of myself that were outside cancer, but within my control.
It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been in remission. Maybe it’s time for me to admit to a degree of bravery. After all, I think the Foda is incredibly brave to be living through Lyme. She probably doesn’t feel that way. But neither does anyone living through adversity. They feel what I felt: fear, determination, stubbornness, hope. I don’t know if that adds up to bravery for everyone, but I’ve finally realized that it does for me.
What does bravery mean to you? Do you think it’s a choice? How often does that choice have to be made?
Thank you to the Foda for inviting me to do a guest post- it’s an honor to be featured on such an inspiring blog. Feel free to read more about cancer, Harry Potter, and philosophies of life over at Words From The Sowul!