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You're Stronger Than You Think Source:

by PJ Hamel
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What if. . . you're not the person you always imagined yourself to be?

As we grow from child to adult and the years pass, we develop certain assumptions about ourselves. Things like, "I have a low pain threshold." Or "I don't do well in a crisis." Or maybe even, "I can't stand needles." We believe we know ourselves. And then cancer strikes. And we find out that perhaps our self-assumptions aren't quite as accurate as we believed.

Most of us, thank God, discover positive attributes we never knew we had. Perhaps it's because, as women, we tend to under-value ourselves. Think about it; do most of the women you know think they're brilliant, accomplished, beautiful, and on top of all that, a good mother and wife? Or do the majority of your girlfriends think every day is a bad hair day, the meals they make are uninspired, they're probably going to lose their job soon, and they wish they could be the perfect mom like X or Y or Z? Whether from years of being officially classified second-class citizens, or genetics, or the way our mothers brought us up, most of us feel inadequate in at least one aspect of our lives.

Cancer is a crisis. Like all crises, it gives us a chance to prove ourselves, for better or worse. And the overwhelming amount of stories I hear are positive. "I didn't think I'd be able to look at myself after my mastectomy," said one friend. "But I just forced my eyes down to my chest as the nurse took the dressing off, and it was OK, not nearly as bad as I'd imagined. I was fine with it." Another friend, a hypochondriac who's always been squeamish about any kind of illness, was devastated at the thought of chemo. She was convinced she'd turn into a trembling heap of tears. Instead, she learned that sickness can be faced… and then faced down. Her worst fear finally came true, and she discovered the reality was easier to deal with than her imagination.

"I don't think I could be as brave as you," was a comment I heard over and over again during my 9 months of cancer treatment, always from people who hadn't had to face their own health crisis. I'd answer, "Yes, you'd be just as brave. You've just never had to put your strength to the test. And I hope you never do."

If you're reading this, chances are you either HAVE put yourself to the test, or you're about to; you've been through treatment, or it's on the horizon. Maybe you're a caregiver who's been down the long road with a loved one, or is starting soon. Either you've discovered your own strength. . . or you will. Trust me. When you have cancer, when the game is life or death, you're exactly as brave and strong as you have to be.

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