My Real Life Odysseus

September 11, 2008
Odysseus was a hero is every way possible. Even through monsters, angry gods, and treacherous weather, he never gave up. When I look at my own world and think of a hero in our time, I imagine someone who has been through troubles and tribulations of many different sorts, but yet overcome all doubt to claim some sort of victory. I think of Annie Bender. She demonstrates heroism, strength, and all that is perseverance. Although, she has battled disease, she still remains selfless and joyful in her life. Courage, patience, and wit are just a few of the ways Annie Bender embodies all that is heroic.

Fifth grade, a time of math class, projects, and field trips, but for Annie Bender, it was a time of hospitals, medication, and surgery. Diagnosed at age eight with Aplastic Anemia, a blood disease, Annie went through years of bloody noses and bruising constantly. After two years, she had an operation called a bone marrow transplant (stem cell), when she was eleven. It was a terrifying and confusing time for such a young, naïve girl. She had to deal with such immense pain and separation from friends. Without her incredible strength and hope she wouldn’t have survived. It required bravery to face life risking surgery and excruciating soreness in order to somehow get better. She was petrified of the consequences or side effects the surgery and recovery would entail. Looking back, Annie described how intimidating and agonizing it was. “Chemo was the scariest part of the whole experience. I lost all my hair and got so sick,” Just like Odysseus though, she kept her head up and looked at the upside of every situation. Her hope was always high and a smile was relentlessly attached to her face, good thing too, because she would need it.

Not only was she hospitalized for over a month and put on bed rest for weeks at a time, but she also had to miss all of sixth grade to recover and heal. Patience and endurance was what motivated and inspired her at the time. Throughout chemotherapy and multiple check ups, she stood up against hair lose and sickness. Throwing up and throbbing stinging were apart of her daily routine. She was given numerous medications to help her body accept the bone marrow faster. At only eleven years old, Annie still withstood all these obstacles to eventually end up in “perfect condition today” as she says. Like Odysseus traveling home from Troy, there was a long road to recovery she had to toughen out. Her daily struggles of getting stronger and healthier compare to the Odyssey’s many creatures that formed blockades for Odysseus. Both must overcome the sometimes impossible and stay positive, because if not, they would drown in a sea of sorrow. Neither Odysseus nor Annie doubted themselves or their ability to accomplish their goal, whether is was the land of Ithaca or to be able to go back to school. Patience was the major characteristic that allowed them to succeed. Now that the surgery was over with, Annie had the difficult challenge of getting back to normal ahead of her.

Due to Annie’s extreme disorder, she had to be taken out of school for a full year. Missing all of sixth grade in order to cope and recuperate from the ordeal, she enrolled in summer classes to stay up with the curriculum and not fall behind. She studied and worked exceptionally hard to accomplish sixth grade in time to start seventh with her old friends and classmates. Annie used her intelligence and determination to get what she wanted. This is a prime example and similarity between her and Odysseus. She also claimed that she “learned about the disease” that had made such an impact on her life as to better understand what was happening to her body. Although she did not use her cleverness to get her out of tricky situations like the grand tactician Odysseus, I do consider the fact that Annie was able to attain her objective using her intellect resembling Odysseus. In reality, Annie Bender has a great deal in common with Odysseus.

Odysseus faced some of the hardest and scariest moments anyone can ever imagine, but when we step back and look at the bigger picture we are able to say it was just a book, nothing is real, or that could never happen to me. Yet, when you look at illness you see the actual horror that consumes the victim’s life and all their loved ones. There are those who do make it through, even against all odds. Just like Odysseus against Poseidon, Annie Bender fought for everything using her audacity, patience, and smarts. In the end, they both made it. In every way they have learned to “really appreciate what you have” according to Annie, and never take living for granted. I believe that Odysseus and Annie Bender grew in the same way on their journeys in life. No matter how different the events were, they are somehow extraordinarily alike. I feel immeasurable admiration for Odysseus and his astonishing and unbelievable expedition. Still, he is just a character form a book. Annie Bender though, is a real living person, my real life Odysseus.

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