The Fallibility Of Certainty

Alp Beck


When I was receiving cancer treatments and had no hair, a young girl of about 19 approached me in the hallway by the doctor’s office.

She asked, “how do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Walk around without a wig, without a hat, without a care? You’re so brave.” There was genuine admiration on her face and, I’m ashamed to admit it, I basked in it.

I chuckled. “No. Not brave, just lazy.”

“But you don’t seem to care everyone will know you’re sick. It doesn’t bother you what others think.” She said, shyly. Then continued. “How do you do it? I’d like to be that brave.”

“You simply can’t give a shit what anyone thinks. It’s your life.”

“I want to do that; to not care. But I don’t want my neighbors to look at me differently, to know that I’m sick.”

“You can do it. You’re living in your skin, not theirs.” I said.

I felt proud, and a little smug, in my certainty. I had a year left of chemo – every three weeks – a year already behind me. I was arrogant and sure in my knowledge. A pro. Yes, I dispensed brilliant advice. The regulars in the waiting room all knew this. Calm and confident. Yessiree, that was me.

“How often do you get chemo?” I asked.


“For how long?”

Then she said the six words that pulverized me:

“For the rest of my life.”

And just like that, I deflated, instantly ashamed of my hollow boast.

The girl had mistaken my hubris for bravery when she was the courageous one. She’d get those rotten treatments, weekly, for the rest of her life. I could not even imagine it.

I am grateful to her. She reminded me of something I should never forget: whatever your situation or your certainty is, remain humble and don’t make assumptions.

That young woman, her strength and her lesson, are engraved on my soul.

I hope she is well — wherever she is.



Alp Beck

Alp Beck lives in New York City. She writes in all genres but prefers horror. Her essays have been featured in the NY Times and the NY Blade.