Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - 9

Self-Advocate
BRAVERY
own hands and seek out the supplemental
treatment options that were best for me on
my own. This is easier said than done when
you're sleeping 12+ hours a day and taking a
boatload of medicines that make you feel like a
walking zombie. Oh, and let's not forget about
the chemo brain that was present throughout
the entire experience. I didn't flip a switch and
become " Brave Cristina " overnight. My bravery
emerged slowly as I was given confidence
from my doctors, optimism from my family,
and faith from my progress during treatment.
I have always thought of bravery as a cheesy
buzzword. But in reality, it's one of the most
impactful traits that can affect our quality of
life and outcomes as we face adversity. Bravery
looks different for everyone. The movies paint
" bravery " as a grand gesture or a sudden transformation.
In reality, bravery is a trait that, for
many people, gradually develops over time and
is revealed in the subtleties of daily life. When I
was first diagnosed, I heard the same recurring
phrase that all young adult cancer patients are
bombarded with- " You're so brave. "
What is brave about undergoing chemotherapy?
It's not like I had much of a choice
if I wanted to live. I did it because I had to. I
could not comprehend what was brave about
sitting in a chair for eight hours doing almost
nothing except trying not to throw up while
being administered medication. I would not go
up to my mom and say, " Wow, you're wearing
your reading glasses so that you can see? How
brave. " Now, in hindsight, I can see that bravery
was within me during my treatment-but
not in the ways that I assumed people meant
when they said, " You're so brave. " I was not
brave for simply undergoing chemotherapy. I
was not brave for taking my medications and
showing up to my appointments. I was brave
for all the small actions that forced me out of
my comfort zone-beyond my hardships-to
ultimately elevate my quality of life.
For me, being brave meant being comfortable
with being uncomfortable. It meant
tuning out the negative stories surrounding
chemotherapy. It meant focusing on the simple
pleasures of life rather than the prognosis
statistics. It meant embracing the love of my
community and ignoring the individuals that
disappeared when times got tough. It meant
intentionally shaping my attitude to weather
the storm that was the next six months of my
life. It meant allowing myself to not only feel
vulnerability, but to also embrace it.
It was brave of me to get in the car and drive
to the urgent care by myself, knowing that I
was about to receive the life-changing news
of my diagnosis alone. It was brave of me to
show up to work every day for two-and-a-half
weeks after my diagnosis and continue to push
forward in my job, smiling at co-workers and
making normal conversation. It was brave of
me to look people in the eyes while they gave
me the saddest look of endearment as I shared
my diagnosis with them. It was brave of me to
leave my local hospital system despite convenience
and seek out a higher standard of care,
even if it meant moving out of my home for
half a year. It was brave of me to move back to
Cleveland, leaving behind a new career, fully
settled apartment, budding friendships, and a
long-term relationship to live with my parents
once again. It was brave of me to let go of my
independence and allow my mother to help me
treatment. It was brave of me to let the world
see my vulnerability throughout treatment.
Now that I have convinced you of all the
ways that I actually was brave during treatment,
I'd like to share my advice for anyone
addressing a cancer patient or survivor. When
you look them in the eyes and try to connect
with them, don't just tell them that they are
brave. In the midst of treatment, bravery is a
difficult concept to grasp as a cancer patient,
and it can feel debilitating when you don't
think you measure up to the labels that others
create for you. Instead of putting a cancer
patient on a pedestal, remind them of all the
ways in which they have embraced and elevated
their situation to overcome their hardships.
Acknowledge their fears and also how
they have addressed them. Explain to them
the ways in which you have seen them grow
throughout treatment. Simply put, you can
tell them that they are brave without explicitly
saying the word.
" Surviving treatment is brave, but moving forward with
life and the 'new normal' post-treatment is even braver. "
with basic human tasks. It was brave of me to
admit to my friends that I was not OK. It was
brave of me to voice my concerns with side
effects to my doctor and ask for a change in
my regimen despite the standard procedure of
care. It was brave of me to stand up for myself
when acquaintances spread incorrect rumors
about my health, criticized my decisions as a
patient, and tried to diminish the seriousness
of my treatment. It was brave of me to ignore
the people that claimed my cancer was not
real. It was brave of me to return to work bald
and tired and still carry myself with poise and
a determined persona. It was brave of me to
show up to a room full of strangers in a town I
barely knew the week after I finished treatment
to connect over our shared illness. It was brave
of me to wear a wig to a conference for work.
It was brave of me to go grocery shopping
with my headscarf on and ignore the stares
of strangers. It was brave of me to share my
story on public platforms and mentor other
survivors when I myself had just finished
Bravery in the face of cancer isn't a giant or
sudden revelation, achievement or change-it's
the sum of small but impactful actions that
cancer patients take from the moment they
wake up feeling nauseous to the moment they
go to bed exhausted. Exhibiting bravery does
not mean simply putting on a " brave face. " I
think the bravest actions of an Adolescent
and Young Adult (AYA) cancer survivor are
those that involve exposing and accepting the
vulnerability that comes with the diagnosis of
a life-threatening illness. Surviving treatment
is brave, but moving forward with life and the
" new normal " post-treatment is even braver. It
isn't easy to watch your co-workers view you
differently, or tell a new date you have been bald
and sick, or rekindle friendships you struggled
to maintain while in treatment. But all of these
daily activities are proof that you are more
than just a " cancer patient " or a " survivor. "
You are a brave young adult that has already
shown the world a lifetime of courage. That is
something to be proud of. l
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HODGKIN LYMPHOMA ISSUE 2021
9
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Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021

Contents
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - Cover1
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - Cover2
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - 1
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - Contents
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - 3
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - 4
Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - 5
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Elephants and Tea: Hodgkin Lymphoma Issue 2021 - 9
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