"I, I will be king...and you, you will be queen. Though nothing will drive them away, we can beat them, just for one day. We can be heroes, just for one day."
- David Bowie, "Heroes"
Our culture is one of hero worship. We've all watched as the comic book stories of Batman, Spiderman, and Superman have been made into television shows and re-made into big budget movies. There is even an incredible documentary called, Waiting For Superman about the hope that someone will come to rescue kids stuck in our failing inner-city schools. Don't we all wish, when life gets tough and getting to the next day seems impossible, that someone will swoop in and fix things? I think we all have heroes and some of us even have superheroes. Many of us have had multiple heroes throughout our lives, I know I have - and I'd like to tell you about them.
My dad was my first hero. I was his shadow, the quintessential daddy's girl. When I was little we would go for mile walks after dinner - and when you're five, mile walks are akin to climbing Everest. During summer vacations at the Jersey shore he would hold me tight in the ocean making sure the waves never took me out to sea, teaching me well how to avoid being clobbered by dunking under the breakers or confidently swimming over the swells. To this day I am both a fearless and strong ocean swimmer. On Sunday afternoons we watched the Giants or the Jets play football and during halftime he would lie down on our green living room rug and wait for me to run toward him as fast as I could to 'tackle' him, and as he pitched me clear over his head I screamed and giggled. After my dad passed away, my mom became my hero. How could she not? She was amazing. She worked full-time while raising two little girls on her own, long before the term single parent existed. She raised my sister and I exceptionally to become independent, confident women and if I do say so myself, we turned out pretty damn well. Both of us successful in very different ways, loving wives and mothers, it's obvious we learned by example.
The older I got, certain teachers and college professors who believed in me and championed my abilities to do anything I set my mind to became my heroes. I was also fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful girlfriends and roommates that would occasionally claim hero status by sitting up all night with me after a bad break-up, a bombed assignment, or the time I ran a frighteningly high fever and my mom was two hours away. I'd like to think we've all had heroes in our life that will hold back our hair so that we can neatly barf in the dorm bushes after a hard night of partying and heroes that would make sure we crossed the quad safely at 3am. Even early on in my marriage and young motherhood I looked up to those family members that were just a few steps ahead of me; raising their children to be kind, respectful, and polite. They were my heroes then.
Once my boys were in school my definition of heroes changed. They were the parents I interacted with every day at playgrounds, parks, and cub scouts that faced insurmountable challenges such as toddlers on the autism spectrum, babies with life threatening allergies, children that had behavioral or social issues. Heroes? No doubt. I watched in solemn reverence as firefighters, police, and everyday citizens jumped into the rescue efforts post-9/11. They were more like superheroes.
I was lucky to have my own little troop of heroes that I often looked up to and aspired to emulate but when I got cancer my definition of hero shifted once again and began to mean something else entirely. I began to see heroes in decorated in yellow and pink and purple and teal ribbons. Heroes, that while holding themselves up buoyed others - selflessly. These men and women pulled the short straw...and in turn used their knowledge and experience to make a bumpy road for others a little smoother. They are the everyday heroes; the ones that always have a warm and welcoming smile at cancer yoga, and those who have a dirty joke ready to tell as soon as you walk into the chemo room. The ones who hug deep and love hard and those that know all too well what it is like to have to face your mortality. Heroes that know after getting news that they were not fully prepared for will fall apart in their doctor’s office then go home and put on a brave face for their loved ones.
Recently I lost one of my heroes, Nicole. She was one of my survivor sistahs, fellow blogger and author of the book, When Life Hands You Pink Lemons. Courage was her superpower. When one drug stopped working she would immediatley ask, "okay, now what - what's our next option?" She was tireless and always believed that maybe this next drug or drug trial will work. She never lost faith. She never lost hope. She fought every single day. She smiled all the time. She made everyone around her want to be a better person. Her impact on me is permanent. I am a better human being because of her. She's gone but won't ever be forgotten.
In addition to Nicole, I've been fortunate to share this journey with many heroes. There's Val - who created her own breast cancer superhero, Victorious Val and Her Breast Cancer Crusaders whose superpower is giving hope and more support than a good bra to help all of us win our battle against the boobie beast. And there's Ann Marie, who whose superpower is her unflinching in-your-face bravery. By posting her after mastectomy pics, on Facebook she showed the world that breast cancer is so much more than a pink ribbon. She then rallied the troops when they shut down her page, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer, she put Zuckerberg in his place, and marched right over his ass with her pink glittery stilettos. My friend Amanda is another everyday superhero. Amanda is an incredible mom to her five kids, she's a dancer, and she is fighting stage IV breast cancer. I'm typically in awe of her beautiful smile, her fabulous style (this girl can rock a wig like nobody's business), and positive outlook. Her 'won't let it win' attitude is her superpower.
I have found that heroes are plentiful - and fluid. Who you idolize today may not be the person you cling to tomorrow. Particular needs and circumstances will bring different heroes into our lives; each one having a unique characteristic or superpower. We can be our own heroes too. Sometimes it's you motivating yourself to get moving, get to the doctor's office, get to the gym and get to work. On a good day, when I'm in hero mode I picture Wonder Woman...if for no other reason than my affinity for big gold bangle bracelets, tiaras, and a good push-up bra. On a not so good day I picture the Flash...umm, let me clarify, the HOT Flash. Sweat-soaked working mom by day and Tamoxi-babe by night righteously, flipping cancer off - like a BOSS!