First off, I would like to state that while you might survive a particular disease or trauma, you will not survive life. Life is a very terminal disease and there are no survivors. It is up to each of us to make our time here as worthwhile as we can, with the means at our disposal. I detest the term survivor, because so often the people that use it constrict themselves down to how they bested whatever trauma or illness. Sure, you are a cancer survivor, in that you bested it to eke out a few more years until life claims you anyway, but if those final years are spent looking backwards and expending all your energies in a fight against the ravaging cancer beast, who has really won at the end? I am still, at heart, a dancer, although I can no longer dance without massive pain. I am still, at heart, an artist and a musician. I am not a "fibromite", that fatuous term those with fibromyagia like to stand tall under. I suffer under my illness; I may accept it as mine but I do not "survive" it.
We are not heroes. You do not become a hero because you become disabled, or, if you do, then we are ALL of us heroes, each and every single member of humanity, whether disabled or not. Because every one of us who lives long enough will become disabled. That is a fact. Old age is the mightiest disabler of all. It makes weak the strongest of men and makes barren the most fertile of women. When was the last time someone was declared a hero for becoming old?
Some of us become infirm sooner than others. Of these, some will die at a much earlier age, and some will simply live many years in the grip of their infirmities. For the most part, in the case of disease, this is often the result of simple bad luck. When it came to the hand of life, you were simply born with a bad set of cards. There is little point in shouting "WHY ME?" to the unanswering Heavens, but if you must shout, I have a twofold response for you:
Why not you? Why not you? What would make you so special, above the human race as a whole, to be above the tragedy we will all of us face should we live long enough? But just as you are not a perfect being, neither are you a monster. We will all face calamity at some point. The fact that you may face it sooner, or what may be more than the average share, is simply a matter of numbers. Someone has to be on each side of the median line, so why not you?
Who is better than you? Who is better than you to face such an ordeal, you who have up to this point handled and dealt with everything in your life, for better or worse, and still made it thus far? We are all of us part of a race so adaptable it has braved the ocean depths, the vacuums of space, the icy north, and the scorching desert sands. Even now, I am communicating to you an abstract idea from one mind to another, a feat of one soul touching another through thoughts and a language constructed of sounds and written symbols. Something we take for granted would make us mystics in another age, and is beyond the realm of primordial thought entirely. You who are given the capacity for conscious choice, for of those whom I've met once diagnosed with a chronic long-term illness, there is not a single one that cannot adapt and grow once they choose to manage that illness. Not all of them decide to do so; I have met many a soul for whom the pain exceeds the value of life--but still they have the capacity to make a choice.
I have found the adaptability of the ordinary person, the ordinary frail, insecure, often scared, often confused, person, to be only limited by the complexity of the challenge set before them. Given only minimal teaching, and paltry supplies, the ingenuity of even the meanest intellect is awe inspiring to behold. It isn't hard to imagine how we have conquered our environment, even to our own detriment. We are, each and every one of us, superbeings in waiting. To place a title such as "hero" anywhere on top of that always seems to me superfluous. A hero is nothing more than an human being given the correct situation for that particular individual to shine, someone placed by chance near an obstacle at the time of their life when they were ready to tackle it.
At some point, we will all reach a stage in our lives where we are ready to be heroes. If we are lucky, there is no calamity nearby to test ourselves against. Would that the world could always be so perfect there were no "heroes", and only humans, only the untested. Would that each of us could forever see the hero potential in each other that exists.
Please, do not call me a survivor. I will not survive. Call me a dancer, even if I never dance again.
Please, do not call me a hero. I have performed no heroics. Call me a human, for we are heroic enough.