It was something I said that broke the rank and file of emotion. Something about reliability. Her head bowed over her breakfast bowl of oatmeal and berries. There was a pause, and then... tears. I sucked in my breath. Sunlight, missing for the past two days, streamed in the hotel restaurant's dining room. I snatched my napkin from off my lap and deposited it on my empty plate, rose and turned to unleash my purse strap from the back of my chair, lifting it over my head and down to rest on one shoulder, its weight at my hip, weapon-like. We marched single-file and tight-lipped past the black-clad waiters and waitresses who smiled as a reflex.
She cried. She cried the tears that are squeezed from the inner-most chambers of the heart. Her personal war story was one of many battles—diagnosis and remission, diagnosis and remission, diagnosis and remission, with life laying siege each time in between. Though her arena differed from our own, the language of the campaign was so much the same. Fear. Loss. Trust. Loss. Hope. Loss. Fatigue. Loss.
With survival comes a lamentation for the life that was lost. There lies such great grief in the hearts that lead our campaign of change. We patients, we involuntary band of brothers, were enlisted by this army as cannon fodder. But we were not taken down. Wounded yet emboldened by experience, we rose to build our own armies, wiped tears from our blood- and grease-covered faces, pounded our fists against our chests and cried out, "Action conquers fear." It is only from being torn apart that we are given the means to heal.
Each fortress of healthcare's status quo shows chinks in the wall through which we speak, at first a whisper, and then a yell—patients included, patient-centered, empowered, engaged, enabled. We scale walls. We break open doors. We recruit those inside. And thus our army grows.
We fight not to destroy but to reconstruct. My own weapons are words. I wield stories to cleave the heart in two and the head apart from its routine course of judgment. Each patient who tells his or story thus has chosen to take up his or her arms and fight. Like me. Like she. Like we.
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