The indomitable will of a victim
By Margaret Matthews, Columnist
When I was in middle school I read Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life. Her courageous spirit and determination to overcome her disabilities inspired me. I asked myself, does one have to despair when they realize they are deprived of any of their five senses? It all depends on the attitude and the perspective that the victim adopts: of either defying the odds against them or giving up.
I later saw The Terry Fox Story, which portrays an 18-year-old Fox who was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg, which was amputated so that the disease would not spread. In 1980, with only one leg, he began his journey of running across Canada. His Marathon of Hope established the Terry Fox Foundation in 1988 to raise funds for cancer research. Unfortunately, nearing the end of his journey, his cancer spread to his lungs, which forced him to stop running. In 1981, Fox passed away, but the Terry Fox Foundation and annual Terry Fox Run have gone on to raise over $600-million for cancer research. A short life, but one lived to the fullest. A true hero indeed!
Another victim who defied the odds was Rick Hansen, who sustained a spinal cord injury in a traffic accident when he was a teenager. He was left paralyzed from the waist down. Hansen became a wheelchair marathoner and dreamt up Man in Motion, a world tour covering more than 40,000 km through 34 countries and four continents. His philanthropy through the Rick Hansen Foundation has helped raise over $200-million for spinal cord injury and related programs. He was also inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and is a recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Simon Fraser University. I was privileged to attend the event and meet him in person. He has a very optimistic attitude and is full of energy and humour.
Across the world, we meet Oscar Pistorius, a South African marathon runner, affectionately referred to as “Blade Runner,” who had both his legs amputated when he was an infant. Despite the odds of his disability, he was fitted with prosthetics and while he was initially banned from competing outside of the Paralympics, he fought and proved to the world that it can be done. He went on to compete in the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, and the 2012 Summer Olympics, as well as the 2012 Summer Paralympics. Pistorius has won several awards and medals for his marathon racing.
We should not despair when faced with overwhelming obstacles and challenges. Medical technology has devised all sorts of ways to combat such difficulties. I knew a couple whose only son was killed in a tragic accident, two weeks before his university graduation. His fiancée was also graduating with him. Together they had dreams of a life together, but fate was unkind. His parents and fiancée were devastated, but they had a courageous spirit and an indomitable will.
The parents unofficially accepted the girl into their family as their daughter. They also sponsored a promising young man from Africa who wanted to do his post-secondary education in Canada. After a few years of study, the young man, who was an orphan in Africa, graduated from university and has an exceptional job. The philanthropy of the parents, and their positive attitude turned the family’s tragedy into a triumph.