A Different Kind of Hero

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The dictionary defines a hero as ‘a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.’ Mary does not have any amazing talents, she has never saved a kindergarten class from a burning building, and she does not display any noble qualities. I am also pretty sure Mary has never gone on a long, dangerous journey like Odysseus. However, one thing she does have is courage, and a lot of it. Mary’s courage, independence, strength, and faith are what make her my hero.

Growing up in a family of 14 people in Chicago, she never got much attention like other kids her age. She was the middle child of 8 brothers and 3 sisters. Mary recalls the chaos of even sitting down to eat dinner with her family, saying, “If you wanted to speak, you had to raise your hand and wait to be called on.” It was not necessarily because her parents were strict, but mostly to keep order. From a young age, she learned to be independent and strong. This is another reason why Mary is my hero. She is one of my mom’s good friends, and I have known her ever since I can remember.
Mary remembers that day when her world was flipped upside down. It was the last day of school for her kids, June of 2004. What was supposed to be a happy start to summer turned into one of the worst days of her life. That day the doctor told her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mary’s first reaction was that something like this could not happen to her. She argued with the doctor—she told him that he was wrong. But, then her emotions kicked in and she became scared just like any other woman would. Mary underwent 16 weeks of chemotherapy and 7 weeks of radiation treatments. When the doctor told her that the treatments altogether would take a year, her reaction was, “One year?! I don’t have a year!” The last thing she wanted to waste was a whole year of her life.

She was always tired and sick during her treatments. It’s like always having the flu, but not being able to do anything about it. Mary explained to me that the chemicals used to kill the cancer also kill things in your body that you need. No food ever looked appetizing to her, and she never had enough energy to do everyday tasks. “There were some days,” she told me, “where all I could do was sit on the couch and watch Ellen.” When I asked Mary what helped her get through it, she replied with no hesitation. She said there were two things that kept her going—friends and prayer. She said she could not have done it without her friends—they were constantly cooking her meals, doing laundry for her, cleaning her house, dropping her notes letting her know that they were praying for her. After all Mary has gone through, she has something to show for it. She feels that she is more compassionate to others’ suffering now. She also learned how much she is loved by God.

Mary has never been held captive in a Cyclops’ cave, and she has never fought and killed 100 girls trying to steal her husband. I do not think Odysseus ever overcame breast cancer. They have almost nothing in common. However, they do have a couple of things in common. They are both independent people and who do not need to others; however, both are not afraid to ask for help from friends. Mary asked her friends for help when she did not have the strength to do things herself. Odysseus was befriended by strangers with open arms when he was in need. Odysseus and Mary are both incredibly strong and brave in tough situations. I also think that in the end, they both learned from their experiences.

There are many different kinds of heroes. Different people have different ideas of what a hero is; however, everyone is a hero in some way. Some may be heroes in big ways, and others may be heroes in little ways. Some find cures for diseases. Some might save peoples’ lives. Others simply motivate and inspire others. That is what Mary is to me, and she is my hero. “So many people see me as a hero,” she told me, “but I don’t see it that way at all.”





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