Those who battle serious sickness each day and refuse to become victims are incessantly told we inspire the chronically healthy. Individuals who know only good health go overboard to tell us they just do not know how we do it. Generally, I look blankly at them, wondering if they have any idea what they are talking about.
Allow me to set the record straight. There are no heroes, only survivors. There are no medals or merit badges dangling from our chests. A life well lived is its own reward. Many have families, living with the same obligations as everybody else. There is an additional pressure point for us. We desperately want to be normal, to flee the sideshow stage.
I have battled multiple sclerosis for four decades. In many years on the CBS Evening News and with CNN, I succeeded by performing on a par with everybody else. I was hassled by the authorities in Poland when I covered the rise of Solidarity. My butt was a target in Beirut and El Salvador. I was no hero. I did it for me, reckless though it was at times.
Many believe they are not emotionally equipped to handle a life of illness. They think they would fold and slink away if confronted by the harsh realities that accompany deteriorating health. How many times have all of us overheard coffee shop conversations, someone opining at a crowded table, oh, I never could deal with that. Blah. Blah. Blah. I stifle the urge to walk to the table and say, what the hell do you know? You have never been tested. Maybe you are more resilient than you know. Shut up and live your life. You will find out soon enough.
People are scared to death of death, and a life of protracted illness cannot be far behind. The sick have grown used to our conditions. They have merged with our identities. We are who we are. Take it or leave it, but please cut the hero crap. All of us know the struggle to just get by. If we have children, we understand that young people take cues from us. Getting it right sends an important message to therm.
Who has time for the hero stuff? Americans always are searching for heroes. Don't look at me, and please do not waste my time. I have a lot of living to do. That is a tough haul for everyone. And wearing 10 pounds of metals on my chest does not make it easier. I only speak for myself when I silently say to the effusive: Get a life.