Today I chatted to someone six years younger than me who has just been going through chemo for breast cancer, and will next week have a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
This isn’t a post about how crap things happen to good people, or how you never got to know your two grandparents and one grandparent owing to cancer. It’s about being strengthened by someone’s else’s strength, someone who for 25 minutes of talking made me cry, laugh and look at her pencilled-in eyebrows, marvelling at how real they looked.
For 25 minutes, I forgot about my number on the scale this morning, I forgot about my deadlines, and I certainly forgot about the lightbulb that needs changing outside the house that I’m too scared to climb onto a ladder for. And I sure felt silly for feeling frustrated that I can’t find the MAC lipstick colour I really really want.
Many times the people who teach me and inspire me the most are not necessarily the rich, pretty or on-paper successful type. I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired by a celebrity, for example. What fuels me is people who have found strength in rough times, people who might have been dealt the shittiest hands but continue to give and help and smile. These are my teachers and role models, and people who help me see the wood for the trees. They don’t necessarily seek to change people, or get attention, and instead of standing on a platform or pulpit, they are right next to me.
My lessons come from this cancer superhero, from the runner who shared his tissues with me at Comrades while I got onto the rescue bus, bawling. They come from our domestic workers, who find the capacity and energy to smile and give selflessly even when aspects of their own lives are unravelling. And they come from the begging man who we see on the way to school every day who has one hand, which he waves at you each time we pass him, accompanied by a massive smile.
Max, I hope that through your life you will come across many heroes. May we keep learning from them, and may we keep on being inspired.
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