Superheroes in Disguise

January 21, 2012
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Typically, superheroes are costumed fictional characters equipped with fantastic superpowers, such as phenomenal strength or the ability to fly. Not often does one encounter a true superhero; however, in the past year, I am proud to say that I befriended Superman. Contrary to popular belief, however, Superman is not a brawny young man who sports blue tights and a sleek, red cape whilst saving the globe from destruction. Superman’s true identity is that of a former teacher and Georgian husband and father, David, who taught loved ones important life lessons through his unfortunately short life.

I first learned about David, a cancer patient everyone playfully referred to as Superman, through my cousin, Zehra, an oncology nurse at his hospital. She told me one day over lunch about how David, her patient for over a year, was in dire need of platelets, which she urged me to donate. I immediately made an appointment and traveled to the hospital the following week with my friend and David’s former student, Farhan. As Farhan and I donated platelets, Zehra constantly visited to check on us and update us on David’s status. After two excruciating hours, Farhan and I eagerly sprung up from our seats to go visit David.

David was not what I expected. When I was told about a dying cancer patient who used to teach at a local high school, I assumed he would be in his mid-fifties, but as I walked into his room, I was greeted by an animated man in his mid-thirties. He introduced himself to me right away and shook my hand with great enthusiasm. My cousin discussed how I had donated platelets for him earlier and he thanked me immensely while his mother and wife, Sheila and Lisa, embraced me in what felt like the longest, but greatest hug possible, full of gratitude.

After a few minutes of chitchat, David and I began to converse about our lives while chomping down a couple chicken wraps. He told me about his two daughters, Cap and Izzy, and his battle with cancer. I, hesitantly, questioned him about the moment when he learned he had cancer. He replied instantly by stating that although he was frightened, he believed he could find some way to conquer cancer. David’s ability to cope with his ailment and maintain composure while under an obviously stressful and depressing situation astounded me. During our conversation, I was truly amazed by one thing: David’s ability to remain upbeat and joyful despite constantly facing death, one of his many superpowers.

Several hours later, as I prepared to leave the hospital, Zehra pulled me aside. “He’s in his last stages. Today’s one of his last days here. He’s going into hospice care at home in Athens soon,” Zehra uttered with tears in her eyes. I could not comprehend how David could be dying so soon. Questions and worries filled my mind instantaneously. What was going to happen to his mother, wife, and children? Zehra assured me that David, the superhero, had already arranged for his family to be taken care of after his passing. Zehra also begged me not to tell Farhan, who had become extremely attached to David and could not bear the pain of knowing that David was going to pass away soon. As Farhan and I departed from the hospital, I prayed for his family’s health and happiness.

Two weeks later, I received a heartbreaking phone call from Farhan, alerting me of David’s passing. Although I knew this day was coming, I broke down into tears immediately. After pulling myself together, I called Zehra who, as strong she is, was struggling to remain calm. I immediately began to admire all that Zehra did and comforted her by simply stating that although Superman had flown up to heaven, there was still a superhero on Earth: Superwoman. I vocalized that she was Superwoman, happily assisting and treating multiple cancer patients on a daily basis. After stating that, Zehra told me that she felt a surge of relief instantly.

Superheroes, while created mainly for pleasure, are a call to society for change and do exist in reality. They walk amongst all us ordinary people and occasionally reveal their extraordinary powers. Zehra and David, two of the world’s greatest superheroes, conquered feats daily that required enormous amounts of emotional strength. Zehra juggled her stressful life as an oncology nurse with attaining her Master’s degree. Superman was created as a call for hope for Americans who lacked the optimism. In the same sense, David created hope for himself and his loved ones while teaching them to appreciate every moment of life. David taught the people around him that while, at times, we may feel dreadful about our destination, the journey we undergo can change our whole perception of the destination from one extreme to another. While one may argue that David technically lost his battle with cancer, I believe that he won his war with life, something only a superhero can do.





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