Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading Brave Enough by Kati Gardner! Catch up on Chapter 1, Chapters 2-5, Chapters 6-8, Chapters 9-11, and Chapters 12-15.
Week 6: Chapters 16-20
Commentary by Sam A.:
These chapters spoke very well to my experience with wanting to be the fiercely independent person I was before my cancer treatment. I know what it is like to have to rely on others to help you do things you feel and know you can do on your own. In Chapter 16 Cason said it best when it says, “She .. was tired of having to wait on her mommy to come and help her.” As I didn’t lose a leg I did lose the ability to use my hands because of one of the chemotherapy treatments. It would be debilitating pain in my hands that felt like they were on fire. It was so bad that I needed help being fed, going to the bathroom, and bathing. These are things that I was used to doing on my own and took patience allowing another person to do it the way they were used to. Chemo definitely opened me up to letting go and allowing others to serve me when I needed them the most. It was so heartbreaking to know that something she felt had no consequence (and in any other situation would have no consequence) was the reason she lost her leg completely.
In Chapter 17 when she told Davis what had happened she told him “I was just so tired of waiting on everyone to help me. .. I just wanted to be the one to make the decision.” In a situation like this you want any control over even the smallest things. Your life seems so out of your control that you have to take it back like she did with shaving her head on her terms. I went through this as well hearing that it is most liberating thing to make that decision on your own instead of letting your hair fall out. You get to make the call on when it goes.
After her fall I love that Davis comforted her in a way that no one else did. When she tells him “It’s not fair. None of it is fair.” He knew that others would try and tell her it was going to be alright. I tried to stay super positive even though I knew my life was going to be different after this. It’s not fair to anyone that has to endure that kind of pain but you have to find ways to cope and move forward anyway.
I really felt for Davis when after his girlfriend finds out she is going to lose her leg his ex-girlfriend overdoses. Going in to chemo I felt some guilt about not being able to help a few close family members that were going through depression and severe anxiety that has affected them almost every single day of their lives. I’m glad Davis had a good counselor to tell him, “You cannot help everyone. You can only help yourself. You can’t control other people and what they do. …You can control how you choose to deal with it.” I honestly cared more about their well-being than my own. I knew I was going to be ok but it hurt knowing that they have had to endure that pain and in this moment there wasn’t much I could do to help them.
Sometimes you can feel pretty numb to what is happening to you. Before chemo I was in denial. When I went into chemo I was in denial. It wasn’t until I started losing my hair that I felt the reality of how it was affecting me that made it real. In chapter 20 Cason says, “Rationally, I know this is what had to happen.” I remember being pretty close to the end of my treatment. It was the week before the “red devil” would enter my body once again and cause me to be reliant solely on my mom. I had an anxiety attack about not knowing if my treatment would be enough to beat the cancer. I related to the words Cason said about ” .. there could still be some rogue cancer in my body.” That’s the scary thing about cancer. I was worried about how my anxiety would be after chemo. Was the treatment really working? Would I live my life in fear that it could come back? Would I be worried that someone I know and love would have to endure the same thing? I didn’t like feeling that those chances could be high. Luckily I had amazing doctors that validated me by giving me the hope I needed that the treatment was working exactly as expected. I think I stayed relatively positive throughout my experience. It took until after I resumed my life that I started feeling a little more resentment and anger for what I had to endure, unlike Cason who felt it pretty quickly after her surgery.
As I mentioned before I understand the guilt that comes especially when you have that much time to think and reflect on your life. In Cason’s situation, she had guilt from the small mistake she made. As Heather comforts her she says, ” You woke up one morning with a plan, you took a shower, something we all do, a basic necessity, and then you went to bed with one leg. That’s a lot to process and figure out.” I feel like there were a lot of things that I had to process and it wasn’t always cancer-related. I kept thinking about past relationships and other mistakes or “bad choices” I had made. Sometimes I used those things to justify why I was even in this situation in the first place.. which sounds crazy. I don’t know that it’s something everyone in my situation internalizes but for me my insecurities opened up in bigger and harsher ways than they had ever opened up before. There were times where I wanted to just do as Cason expressed and ” pull the covers over (my) head and sleep until all of this was over.. (and) hide in a dark room and wait for life to resemble what it had been”.It was at times hard to see the light at the end. In hindsight, I know what a blessing cancer had been for the personal progression in my life and it continues to be a blessing in ways I didn’t think possible.
Join in next Monday for the comments and discussion on chapters 21-26!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!