People call me a warrior. They say I’m brave. And perhaps I am. But struggling my way through my most recent round of chemo, I did not feel like a fighter. I did not feel brave. I felt sick and miserable. I felt scared and helpless. I felt overwhelmed by the reality that I will be on some form of chemo for the rest of my life. I felt disappointed that the new immunotherapy that is giving thousands of people a new hope is not effective on my kind of cancer. I felt guilty for feeling resentful of people who have curable cancers. I felt angry at my body for doing this to me and angry at science for not advancing fast enough and angry at a god I don’t believe in.

I felt everything but brave. I did not feel like a warrior.

But you know what else I felt? I felt immeasurable gratitude for and indescribable awe at the people in my life, the people who care for me, my children, and my family. The wide web of folks, some of whom I don’t even know personally, who do big and little things every day to support us. I am the heavy rock that plops into the lake, somewhat awkwardly and without grace. The people in my life are the ripples, beautiful and graceful and seemingly endless. My family takes care of my children, makes sure they are happy and that their lives retain as much normalcy as possible. They put their own fears and pain aside to make sure my kids and I are cared for, no matter the inconvenience. My husband keeps the house standing and the trains running on time, with little respite. My friends tend to my soul, making me laugh, bringing me soup and lemonade, distracting me from my illness with games and food and inappropriate humor. My colleagues and bosses allow me to continue teaching, picking up the slack and providing every support necessary. My community brings us meals and groceries, arranges house cleaners, and donates generously to organizations supporting colorectal cancer research and care. Playdates, texts, emails, rides, visits, comments on social media, hugs for my mom, yoga classes, care packages, haircuts, books, pity tickets, Burt’s Bees products, pickles, mashed potatoes, well-wishes from new friends and old…these ripples surround me and those closest me.

You are the real warriors.