Who is your hero?

I’ve had several in my lifetime, from Lucille Ball to Lee Majors and Michael Jordan, but I’ve found that the real heroes are much, much closer. The heroes I’ve found inspire me and motivate me and make me realize that I can get through any battle.

My oldest sister, Linda Grant, is one of my heroes. She passed away in 2013 but not before the fight of her life when she had to go on dialysis and remained on it for several years.

Linda and I were always a lot alike in many ways. I used to say that we had moles in the same places and we did. We both took medicine for hypertension and diabetes but the similar medical history ended there, as she never developed the heart and vascular disease I have.

Linda did not want to go on dialysis and that is putting it mildly. She fought it for over a year before she gave in. She did well with it at first but then began to have problems with blood pressure during her treatments. Also, she hated the diet required for dialysis and she missed her favorite foods.

It became a real struggle to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for her dialysis treatments and the effects of it were showing on Linda. There were numerous hospital stays for fluid overload and once she had to have blood and I believe Linda was just worn out when she left this world on Dec. 13, 2013. She was gone but no one could say she didn’t give it all she had.

All who knew my sister Sue knew how strong-willed she was. They knew that Sue never faced a battle she couldn’t win.

Sue suffered for years with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) before she gave in and quit working. She had waited until she could no longer walk from the employee parking lot to the employee entrance.

She may have quit her job but she most certainly did not quit working. She got the longest hose available for her oxygen tank so she could still go about the house freely. She still cooked for her family and did most of the household chores, but at the end of the day when she sat in her recliner she was done.

Then one day a new spot showed up on one of her lungs on X-ray. The report was that it was new but not suspicious for malignancy. However, her lung specialist was not satisfied and ordered a CT scan and then a PET scan of her lungs with all having the same report: a new spot but not suspicious for malignancy.

We were all so thankful for that report and I, being a radiology transcriber, knew that the likelihood of a PET scan not showing cancer was very low so perhaps I was the most relieved.

But then she started having pain in her right shoulder. Her daughter, a registered nurse who worked for an orthopedic surgeon at the time, took Sue to him for an injection of the shoulder.

He did an x-ray which showed multiple cancerous lesions in that shoulder. She underwent further work-up and the final diagnosis was stage IV lung cancer and it had spread to several areas, including the shoulder.

From day one of her diagnosis, Sue’s attitude was that she was going into remission and would beat that cancer. She wouldn’t let anyone make the first negative comment because that was her plan and that‘s all there was to it.

Many times I wanted to tell her how much I loved her and I even tried once and she interrupted me, saying “don’t start that stuff.” So I never again tried but I did not leave her side until she had taken her last breath on Aug. 7, 2012.

And in writing about heroes I could never omit my mother. She was the strongest person I have ever known.

In her lifetime she was widowed three times, raised five daughters, managed the household with little or no help, took us all to church, and worked outside of the home in her later years when my stepfather became disabled.

Her perseverance never wavered, even in the face of her own death from lung cancer in 1993. I’ll never forget her last words to me, which were “don’t worry about me, the strength will come.”

My mother faced death exactly as she had faced every challenge in her life and that was with courage, strength and grace.

Now that I am facing more challenging medical diagnoses, I need look no further than Linda, Sue and Mama for the inspiration to deal with them.

These are my heroes, the ones I look up to, the ones I count on for the assurance that I can get through any battle I must face.

Be a hero to someone. Show them with your life what is possible with theirs, regardless of the battles they may have to fight.

Encourage and uplift the heroes in your life, letting them know they are providing inspiration to you and to others. I have found that my own battles with my health are just a little bit easier to fight when I remember that I am not just fighting for myself, but I am giving meaning and purpose to my fight.

I want to be a hero.

Haroldean Thompson is an Etowah resident and can be reached at haroldeanthompson@live.com

Haroldean Thompson is an Etowah resident and can be reached at haroldeanthompson@live.com

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