I’ve never thought of myself as a hero. When I hear that word, I think of someone in tights and a cape that flies in and rescues people. Or maybe in real life, firefighters, policemen, and soldiers… people who are willing to sacrifice their life to keep others safe. I would only do that for my own children, so maybe in some cases I could be heroic, but on a day to day basis I do not believe myself worthy of the word. Yet, I regularly hear it linked to my life because of my cancer survival.
At first, hearing people refer to me as a hero was uncomfortable to me, because I did not willingly risk my life. I had no choice, and honestly, if I had, I wouldn’t have chosen the path on which I ended up. In fact, I felt anything but brave along my cancer road. I cried like a baby while they stuck me, cut me, and used me as a pincushion. When I sat in my chemo chair, I would have rather been anywhere else in the world other than having poison pumped into my body. When I was weak, and sick from treatment I had no superhuman strength, nor did I think of helping others really. I was just trying to get through one day at a time. To live. So you can imagine the hesitation I felt being put in the same category as someone who risks his or her life for others daily.
But then, while I was still mostly bald from treatments, I went to my first Relay for Life event and walked the survivor lap. All the pent up emotion of my journey surfaced in my tears, as people lined the track and cheered for me. Somehow it validated, that indeed this journey was one of courage. That facing your biggest fear is something worth, not only acknowledging, but also celebrating. I walked with others who were new to Cancerland, and still others who were long time survivors of this place. We had something in common, and because of our shared suffering, strangers were bonded in a way that cannot be explained. Just the fact that I was walking, and sprouting hair, was enough to inspire the bald woman with the oxygen tank next to me. The fact that the 20-year survivor next to her was pushing 80 years old inspired me. I watched caregivers cheer through their own tears as we went by, and it occurred to me that our survival gave them hope that their own family members could survive as well. We were a living, moving, breathing, purple blob of inspiration.
The definition of hero is “a person of distinguished courage, admired for brave deeds.” I came to see that walking through Cancerland in spite of my fear might qualify for courage. And having courage enough to face the daily suffering that cancer brings might be considered heroic. But in my eyes, inspiring others and encouraging them that cancer does not kill the spirit of a person, bringing them hope in their journey and cheering them on is the real role of a hero. I may not have tights and a cape, but I wear a purple shirt that speaks volumes to those who recognize its meaning. It says: I did it. I did not quit. I am not alone. I am a survivor. I am hope. I am courage. I am a hero.

One thought on “Heroes

  1. Life is made up of little things. It is very rarely that an occasion is offered for doing a great deal at once.
    True greatness consists in being great in little things.

    To face life and to overcome the difficult is
    is heroic and you have won. Thank God!

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