What can you say when your hero dies?
For most of my life my female heroes were fictional. Seriously. Right into adulthood. I don’t know if it showed a lack of worldliness on my part (it probably did), but I’m a product of equal parts movie, television, and comic book women. However all of that changed when I saw the “Cancer” episode of “Penn & Teller’s Bullshit”.
That episode featured a woman named Barbara Brenner who represented an organization called Breast Cancer Action. She was bold, witty, and really didn’t seemed to care that she was on television. You could tell that what she was saying, she would say whether the camera was on or off. That got me to investigate Breast Cancer Action.
Those of you who have read this site for a while know what happened, I became a vocal supporter of the organization. Every October I highlight Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign and I also will occasionally post about other important work that they’re doing. This is all because of Barbara Brenner, who became my first real life female hero. Because of her Breast Cancer Action’s work was above reproach and they are able to speak truth to power.
Brenner, already having overcome breast cancer, left Breast Cancer Action in 2010 after being diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Even when she lost the ability to talk, she used text to speech software so her voice could be heard. She quickly became a known figure in the ALS activist community and still stayed involved to a certain extent with breast cancer issues as well. She started her own blog “Healthy Barbs” where she discussed her challenges.
Barbara Brenner passed away on May 10, 2013. And again, and again, I found myself asking, what can you say when your hero dies? Then at once I knew.
It’s only when a hero dies, that they can become a legend.
If you wish to honor Barbara Brenner and all the good that she stood for, she asked that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Barbara Brenner Rapid Response Fund at Breast Cancer Action.
If you want to learn more about Barbara Brenner, here are a couple of wonderful tributes: