Courage Wins Over Fear

Fear is real. Those who live with a chronic illness may deal with it on a daily basis. It robs you of the joy of in your journey, the thrill of tomorrow, the delight of your day. It steals your contentment, empties you of enjoying the now, replaces wonder with worry.

What do you do when the worry ogre comes to call? When fear capsizes its ship in your harbor and leaves you to deal with the wreckage? How do you handle fear?

I’ve been enjoying Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. He pinpoints fears relating to finances, children, violence and more, but as I read, I don’t read about fears dealing with chronic illnesses. I doubt that I will and yet, isn’t tackling the fear of unemployment, our children’s safety, chronic illnesses, etc. all dealt with in basically the same way?

Fear is a feeling or emotion about a perceived threat – real or imagined. It’s the condition of being afraid. It is a feeling of dread and hopelessness. It is assuming something terrible is going to come out of a situation. Having Parkinson’s Disease or another chronic disease or illness can make you feel like that: afraid, threatened, hopeless, and more.

We fear losing our ability to talk coherently. To sing or dance. To write, read, paint, draw. We fear the inability to hold our children or grandchildren, to hug our spouse. We fear having to depend on others for helping with everyday tasks we ideally should be able to do until we die. We fear there will be no cure.

Fear can engulf us. Maybe for a moment, an afternoon, a week, a year. It can grab us and refuse to let go. But it doesn’t have to control us.
Courage is the opposite of fear. Courage embraces bravery. It kicks fear in the guts and dares to live. It has the audacity to stand and fight when fear breaths down its neck. Courage grabs the overflowing fountain of fear and flings it into the darkness from where it originated.

Courage faces chronic diseases, terminal diseases and refuses to stand down. It may sit in a wheel chair, lean on a walker, take the arm of one more steady, but it will not crumble. Courage, like fear, is a state of mind that, instead of cowering to what-ifs, lives the here and now. It experiences the ups and downs of the day to day game of life and plays again tomorrow regardless of the rules. Courage allows the players to win. Fear keeps them on the benches.

I have seen and met countless people with chronic illnesses. I have looked into their eyes and have seen courage. I have heard their stories of fear and rejoiced in their victories over it. I have watched them struggle with the reality life has dealt them and laugh at it out loud.
Do they have a secret that allows them immunity over the fear factor of PD? No, but they have chosen to replace fear with the quality of being courageous. Courage is what heroes are made of. Courage breeds hope for a better world. It expects better things to come and looks forward with an optimistic outlook for a better day – a day without walkers or wheelchairs or the worry of what’s to come.

I have seen courage on the faces of those with PD and other chronic illnesses and those who care for them. It may be mixed with weariness and weakness but it is there. It has said “I refuse to give up.” It allows the broken and battered to fight to the end.

To all those who may sit or stand, walk or run, move or remain immobile, I applaud you. Though fear has come and threatened to claim your spirit, you have remained immovable and have been an inspiration to many.

When the fear ogre comes to steal your courage, know that you have a band of others who stand on that front line with you and stand (or sit) ready to fight, ready to win on your behalf.

So don’t give up. You are not alone. At this moment you may feel as if the load you carry is intolerable and you wonder if you can make it another day with pain, stiffness, immobility and more, grasping for your attention – remember to embrace the courage within you and grab hold of the hope that it offers. Stand strong with an optimistic attitude that something better is coming. And don’t forget – you are somebody’s hero.

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” – Dorothy Thompson

Sherri was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's disease over fifteen years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids.

9 comments

  1. Denise Gibsoin says:

    That article about courage was so inspiring to me. Thank you for sharing positive articles like this. What you said was right on point. Thank you again

  2. Ines Niehaus says:

    Dear Sherri,
    I am a now 45-yrs old German female having young onset PD starting in March 1995 after a lab accident.
    I am having tears reading your column about the daily courage chronically ill patients and especially PD patients have in order to try to win the daily fight living with PD. Yes after nearly 23 years having PD I have to be brave daily getting up at 5 o’clock for taking the first dose of L-dopa for being able to leave the bed and falling extremely exhausted asleep at 10:00 p.m. taking the last L-dopa dose. I am working from 5.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. but I need even in on-phases three-times longer than healthy people for any movement. Yes I am very often afraid – afraid of people not only teasing me but in the worst case hitting me because of being disabled and helpless. I am just being able to stand and walk for a short while but can’t move my arms for any kind of protection. Yes I hate it to be dependent upon the help of others even I try to do as much as possible to stay independently but I am often nearly complete unable to walk, try to use my bike for buying food or only going outside to the doctor’s or pharmacy and so on. My caregiver has to work full-time a day. He cares as well as possible but it is very difficult to understand for healthy people to be able to move and talk one time and only a few seconds later you are dumb and moveless in off-phases for hours or even nights in off-phases. I am so happy to read that you and many others also keep on fighting. I am a member of the German self-supporting group for PD and I try to help other PD patients and their relatives as good as I can. I am poor because of young-onset of PD. I had to stop working even half-time in 2009 and money is very few not enough for food I have to eat for feeling better inspite of my PD but I keep on fighting.

  3. Lydia Ross says:

    Thank you, Sherri. I really appreciate the message about fear and courage. It has not been a year since I was diagnosed. At first all I could see was some of my patients I have had in the past. Then as I was sharing these thoughts with a fellow retired nurse, she helped give me a reality check, my patients were terminal by the time I interacted with them.and I have a network of active friends who keep tabs on new advances in medicine and the treat ment of PD. And the best thing I have done is find myself a new family doctor.

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