Brave? No Question.

IBEATCANCERI think the adjective “brave” is overused when talking about people who’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or are about to start treatment. We don’t say someone with a cold is brave for staying in bed and eating chicken soup. Surgery and chemo may be a lot harsher but most of us are numb right after we’ve gotten the diagnosis. Even once we get past that all we want is to get better, we want to survive, and we feel there’s no other choice. There’s nothing brave about doing something when it’s your only option. The real test of a person’s bravery comes after the treatment. Real bravery is defined by how a person moves on with their life even if they’re lucky enough to be in remission. Maybe it even takes more bravery to live in remission because there’s no clear path for those of us who’ve fought the crab and won.

Even before her cancer diagnosis Tig Notaro, whose birthday is today, was brave. She pursued a career in standup comedy, voluntarily going into something where there is no clear path. In 2012 just after her diagnosis she did a now legendary live set in which she told the audience she had cancer. Two years later she performed part of a set topless, showing the audience her double mastectomy scars. In her comedy she sometimes strips away pretense, purposely violating the rules of standup, and with that act she confronted people with the reality of life after cancer. She’s been described as dry and unsentimental, a comedian who keeps audiences at a distance, but talking about cancer with inspirational thoughts and platitudes would be the coward’s way out. Tig Notaro made a choice to be brave.

And this is just hilarious.

5 Comments

  1. halfa1000miles

    Sorry that you have such personal experience with this.

    Although some might consider it otherwise, I consider my mom to be brave. Stuck in a hospital with chronic leukemia. She was NOT going to get better. No Dr. K. options, or she would have chosen that. She took matters into her own hands and simply refused to eat or drink. She had two crappy choices and took the one she preferred. To this day my sister and I are the only ones who know that, as we were there to watch the awfulness of it. Hallucinations, jerking, all kinds of hard to witness stuff. We told everyone she died peacefully, and they all believe that. It was a damn lie. Starving oneself to death is anything but peaceful. But brave, I think so.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m very sorry for your own experience and the loss of your mother. Yes, it sounds to me too like your mother was extremely brave. It must have taken a lot of strength for her to face the inevitable the way she did. And I think you and your sister were very brave for accepting her decision and standing by her. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I’m told that I’m brave, too, Chris. Today, I’m brave enough to post a clip of another comedian, who I’m going to miss very much.

    Reply
  3. Ann Koplow

    I’m also brave enough to tell you that I’m laughing and crying at that Taylor Dayne Story.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad you could show so much courage here. And thank you for that tribute to Garry Shandling. I’m going to miss him too and my own farewell to him will appear here shortly.

      Reply

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