Over the last few days I have been thinking about superheroes. There are different types of superheroes. Some heroes come from other planets and have superpowers. Some superheroes use technology and their wits to fight villains and save the planet. They wear capes and spandex and appear larger-than-life in comic books, cartoons and movies. I enjoy superheroes, but what I was really thinking about were the true heroes that I know.
By definition a superhero is a hero, especially in children’s comic books and television cartoons, possessing extraordinary and often magical powers.
My friends and I have Muscular Dystrophy. We do not fight super villains or crime. We don’t have magical powers or x-ray vision.
My friends are heroes of a different sort. Everyday we fight a progressive and debilitating disease. Superheroes may have bionic body parts or ride in special vehicles, like the Batmobile. Some of us have custom wheelchairs; some of us have tracheotomies and use ventilators. We even operate our wheelchairs with fiber optics and control a computer with our voices. I’d call that extraordinary or even magical powers. Rather than performing superhuman feats, we live our lives and don’t let our disabilities keep us down. We face trials, like pneumonia, hospitalizations and surgeries; superheroes face their own trials in each issue of their comic books. We have learned to live with our disabilities and the challenges that come with them.
The definition of a hero: a person of distinguished courage or ability admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities; regarded as a model or ideal person. This is how I see my friends. We’re a team like the X-Men or the Justice League. We’re just a bunch of guys who try to enjoy life like everyone else. Sometimes that takes a lot of courage. Our experience is similar to that of a superhero; sometimes they see their powers as both a curse and a blessing. Speaking for myself, I’d gladly exchange the pats on the back from admirers for a normal life. We may not see ourselves as heroes, but others are inspired by the way we live our lives despite our disease.
Comic book heroes seem fearless and have superhuman strength and powers. A real hero is just an ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances and handling them as best they can. Our true powers lie in the way we live our lives with dignity and courage and love.
Today I lost a friend to Muscular Dystrophy. He was a hero and I will miss him. This is a tough time for my friends and me. The thing about death is that if we remember our friends and loved ones; they will always be with us. This piece is dedicated to the memory of Nicholas, Chris and Frankie, three friends who have recently died due to complications related to Muscular Dystrophy.