What is courage? Is it having the strength to face fear or pain? Is it the ability to do something difficult? Or is it having the mental and physical strength to persevere through and even withstand months of suffering? I’ll tell you that courage is all of these things.
Mickey was diagnosed in January 2016. She underwent surgery followed by weeks of chemotherapy which ravaged her body. By the second or third day of treatment, she was sick and fatigued; before long she began losing her hair; yet, she remained hopeful and optimistic. More surgery, more chemotherapy, more nausea and vomiting, more fatigue, but still she fought; still she hoped – we all did.
But there would be many more trips to the hospital and emergency room, more scans, more blockages, more tubes, more medications. More cancer.
I’m certain that my sister’s path was clear to her long before it was clear to the rest of us. Or perhaps long before we wanted to admit or accept the path. She didn’t want to plan the rest of her life around infusions of chemotherapy and the side effects that would inevitably come. Mickey knew that it was time to stop pushing; the price of doing so far outweighed the value.
So with the skilled and compassionate palliative team at Riverside, we had the difficult conversation about her wishes to define the final days. She wanted to see her children and grandchildren; she wanted to say good-bye to family; and she wanted relief from months of nausea, pain, and weakness.
These past few weeks were, without doubt, among the most painful and agonizing, but yet, in a way, also some of the most privileged days we spent with her.
So, what is courage? Mickey was courage. She faced fear and pain; endured the most difficult situations and had the mental and physical strength to persevere through surgeries, chemotherapies, agonizing pain, constant nausea and vomiting, N tubes and G tubes, poking and prodding. Mickey was courage.