Are you afraid of heights? You know that feeling you get when you take a peak over the edge of a cliff or a building, or out a window,) and your feet and palms start to tingle and your mouth dries out? Take that feeling and multiple it by googolplex and that is kinda what it feels like to go Over the Edge for Brain Cancer. I mean, I had an idea that heights weren't my thing. But this was something else entirely.
In 2016 I was asked to go “Over the Edge for Brain Cancer”, an event to raise money and awareness for brain cancer, sponsored by Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. My first reaction was a big bag of swears. The kind you don’t even say around your friends, let alone you mother. I am a person who likes their feet planted firmly on the ground. I don’t even like watching my kid swing too high on the swings. I will never be a sky-diver, a bungee-jumper or tight rope acrobat, and that is fine by me.
But I knew from past experience that sometimes you just have to ‘pretend’ to be brave and not turn away. When I learned that I had a brain tumor, my first reaction was shock, rapidly followed by a somewhat comforting feeling of disbelief. After a couple of days in the neuro ICU, I knew this wasn’t something I could avoid my way out of. I made two decisions. The first was that my fiancée was going to marry me then and there. Which he did. The second was that I was going to finish grad school. Which, after a substantial amount of recovery time, I did. And I was scared the whole time I was doing both things. Which was good! It taught me that there really isn’t a difference between acting brave and being brave, though it would always feel like ‘acting’ to me.
And I needed that lesson 5 years later when my tumor came back, this time requiring surgery and a round of fractionated radiation. Because it was still scary. And I didn’t feel brave. And now I had a husband and daughter I wanted to be strong and courageous for (in addition to doing it for myself). So… I pulled out the big bag of swears. Said them all a few (dozen) times. And then I got on with the business of getting that darn thing gone.
When I found myself on the edge of a building in Crystal City, VA on that windy (it just had to be windy) Fall day, with my daughter laughing and jumping up about a million miles below, I reflected on what I had endured just to still be here. And what all the people like me have to face. And my fear of being on the side of a building, feeling barely supported, doing something I never would have otherwise chosen to do, mattered less. It didn’t go away. But I remembered that being brave was about the things I choose to do, not what my feelings are in the moment. And so I went over the edge, proud to represent those of us with brain tumors who make that same decision every day.
Now it's your turn. Rappel, Volunteer or Sponsor Over the Edge for Brain Cancer at our event in Washington, DC or San Diego, CA,
October 7 - Crystal City Hyatt, Arlington, VA.
December 3 - Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego, CA