Friends Love

Discovering the Heroes of Their Stories

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Big Fish, the musical take on the Tim Burton-directed movie about an estranged father and son. The movie is one of my favorites. In the story, Will and Edward Bloom grow apart because the father, Edward, tells over and over again extraordinary tall tales of his life as a young man.

The stories are fanciful and filled with incredible characters like a witch, a mermaid, a giant and a werewolf. And the stories occur in places like the circus and the mythical town of Spectre. Because he had heard the stories what seems like a million times, Will Bloom doesn’t believe his father, doesn’t think he knows the man and believes he is hiding behind the tall tales.

Big Fish is a beautiful, fanciful movie about fathers and sons, love and loss, fantasy versus reality, reconciliation and forgiveness. In 2013 “Big Fish” opened as a musical on Broadway. The show has some great songs, including my favorite, the opening number called “Be The Hero.”

Edward, talking to Will asks,

“What if I told you
You could change the world
With just one thought?”

What if, right? Then, there’s this:

“Be the hero of your story if you can
Be the champion in the fight
Not just the man
Don’t depend on other people
To put paper next to pen
Be the hero of your story, boy, and then
You can rise to be the hero once again”

In our culture, we hold up all kinds of people as heroes: politicians, people famous for being famous, athletes, artists of all stripes. We call them heroes whether they deserve it or not. I’m not judging. My heroes, though, are different.

My heroes are cancer survivor and caregivers, and those who have been lost to the disease. I’m lucky that many of my heroes are or were my friends: Belinda, who lost her fight in January; Marie, under hospice care at home; Bonnie, who has been fighting for some 30-plus year; Superman, my dear friend and constant inspiration; and Sarah, my love and my caregiver without whom I wouldn’t be alive..

I would like to add to my list the names of all the folks in Nashville for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Day at the Capitol. Whether they’re on staff at ACS CAN, are cancer survivors or caregivers or know someone who is either or both, or are just plain passionate about the fight against cancer, they are all heroes to me. Not because they can leap higher than the tallest building, run faster than a speeding bullet or stop a train in its tracks, but because they’re taking time away from work and family to speak out.

The political climate is challenging to say the least. Some of our issues face steep odds. There is no guarantee of victory.

But they’re here. More than 115 people from across the state. They believe in our issues and in the power of their voices.

And one day, we’ll tell the story of how in Tennessee we jumped through rings of fire and slew dragons to make the world a better place for cancer patients, survivors and the people who love them.

It won’t be a tall tale, either. Today it’s just a thought and tomorrow we will change the world. Edward Bloom would be so proud.

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