Superhero is a universal language.  At face value, it occurs to most people as a fixture of pop culture that has been with us since most of us knew what to do with super powers at all.   I’m sure that most of us have read a comic book or watched a feature film that depicts the aforementioned phenomenon… but you probably don’t know where I’m going with this.  That’s okay… Just come along for the ride and we’ll see exactly why superhero is such a healthy way to be.

Back in 2006, I was up to my eyeballs in the Landmark Education curriculum.  I’d taken the Landmark Forum and the Advanced Course because they offered me an exciting way of shifting my perspective on life from doomed/powerless to powerful/manageable.  I had this funny new idea for a feature film– it turned out to be a high concept comedy that is turning heads!  For the self-expression leadership program, the third part of my program, I tapped into something bigger than my funny story and the funny characters I’d built… Could I really learn how to make superheroes from scratch?  With my bare hands?

When you look at the superhero model– brought about by Marvel and DC Comics– their heroes’ traits and qualities are very human indeed.  Think about Bruce Wayne: he was a smart young boy who lost his parents at an early age.  His transformation into Batman was furthered by his own commitment to protecting fellow man.  Superman and Wonder Woman both came from other planets, but their generosity governed them to acquire an alternate personality that would help them blend in with their surroundings better.  The first three superheroes ever to excite our imaginations present clearly chosen roles to be played by their ordinary everyday appearance juxtaposed with the exciting, stronger heroes they become for emergencies.  If they are inherently human qualities, then they can be had by one and all.

I’ve know lots of strong people, over my relatively short time on this planet.  Strength, itself, takes many forms.  When life seemingly falls apart around you: you’re left with who you really are, deep inside.  When I was eighteen, my family and I were involved in a really bad car accident.  Everything that I knew about myself and the world around me changed from the first moments I can recall.  I have no memory of a month and a half following the horrific crash that left me with a fractured, dislocated spine, a traumatic brain injury and internal bleeding.  From all that I’ve been told, I’ve pieced together the details of what must have happened.  I was left with a body that will never work ‘properly’ and a brain that had to work really hard to relearn how to do its job.

I have carried on along the path that I always thought was meant just for me: spending an extra year in university to complete my Honours B.A. in theatre, drama and english has given me a crash course in the art that writes and expresses human nature itself.  As  proud as I am to say that I’ve been there and done that, my career in the entertainment industry took another abrupt detour in my thirtieth year– throwing this body right off the tracks for a second time!!

I’ve woken up to the after-effects of a life gone topsy-turvy,  When I turned thirty, I’d spent half of the previous year trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

My 30th birthday party– tumor included

Papillary Carcinoma– code name Thyroid Cancer– was what stopped me in my tracks this time.  All these doctors warned me about possible complications and what could happen while they were taking stuff out.  But to be honest, I was really only half-listening; I was terrified by the idea that I had cancer growing inside me.  Whatever they had to do to take it out: it had to be done.

I moved everything in my life up to my family home, near Ottawa, and then I spent a week in my sister’s Toronto apartment trying desperately to feel sort of normal while waiting for a surgery date to come my way. For my birthday?  I got a call from a medical secretary and a date with a pre-op CT scan. This time, I wasn’t riding the ‘what a surprise’ train.  I was awake and terrified and trying to be strong while feeling like a bit of a basket-case most of the time.

My family and I stayed at a respite the evening before surgery and I don’t know if I slept much at all.  So much was happening for me.  Most of the clinicians I talked to about my medical history were taken aback by all the stuff that had already happened to me.  This time, I would have to take it in stride.  I remember getting up while it was still dark outside.  I had a shower.  Without any breakfast, my parents escorted me to Mt. Sinai; where I promptly registered, changed into a gown, and waited on a gurney for all the fun to begin.

I woke in so much pain I couldn’t make any real sense of what had happened.  I knew that I’d been in the operating room.  Bright lights.  Stainless steel cabinets.  Hospital blue curtains and gowns.  What had they done to my body?  It doesn’t feel like my body at all.  My mouth was so dry.

File 2015-09-25, 16 11 44

Not quite sure when it hit me, or how, but I think I figured it out somewhere between writing my screenplay and waking up to my neck being four sizes too big,,, I knew that I needed to find the strength that I’d always to pull me through the great big mess that cancer was making of me.

This is me before the surgery… a kind of dramatic moment before that I sketched in my hospital bed.

I had a whole bunch of tubes coming out of my neck and chest; draining the fluids that the surgery had brought. Lymph nodes in my neck and upper chest had gotten involved with the cancer… so they had left the building too.

I spent another week in hospital, dealing with plumbing problems in my thoracic duct (a handy passage way that processes fats before it dumps them into processing.  My neck wasn’t able to hold my head up properly anymore and my throat felt like sandpaper.  The swelling in my mouth made it feel like the mines of moriar (Tolkein) were on my insides and I had trouble swallowing.  Aside from that, I probably felt as good as you might expect me to feel.

One month (recovering from surgery and eliminating iodine from my food) + 1 dose of radioactive iodine (five days as radioactive woman) + 2 weeks recovery + 30 (6 weeks) external beam radiation treatments = no more cancer

I’m sure that I’ve been bitten by a spider at least once in my life and I’ve tangoed with radiation (the cause and cure of my cancer) and I am still here to tell you that my imagination is my super power and science gave my body all the tools it needed to save my life.  That’s right, boys and girls… need a favorite superhero of your very own?  Go look in a mirror.  Let’s make one together.

You: Because I AM A SUPER HERO.UWay

Me: A superhero? Why?

You: Because my favorite supehero is me.

The superhero movement is upon us. >> 

Stand up and be counted among the ones who see it as their possibility to give.  Changing live in the process?  Get started with yours!

N’ That’s how I survived — MDB

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