Who do you call Superman?

How we choose or heroes, our Supermen and Superwomen, says a lot about who we are.

There’s a scene (above) in one of the Superman movies, starring Christopher Reeve, where Lex Luther puts a Kryptonite necklace on Superman.

Superman is powerless around Kryptonite and collapses to the ground.  I always remember that scene because I never could understand why Kryptonite had the ability to bring the powerful Superman, one of my heroes as a kid, down and take away his power.

Of course the Superman movies are fiction and there is no such thing as Kryptonite, but there are many things in the real world that can be disastrous for even the most powerful amongst us. Even our heroes. There are very real things far worse than the fictional Kryptonite.

There are many examples. Spinal cord injury. Cancer. Multiple Sclerosis. Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease…just to name a few.

Unfortunately our own Superman, Christopher Reeve, faced such an event, suffering a spinal cord injury. Another Superman, my friend Roman Reed, also suffered a spinal cord injury, in his case while play college football.

The way that Christopher Reeve and Roman have faced life changing injury is inspirational, and they are heroes to me.  Not only did they not give up, but instead they fought back. In the case of Roman he is still fighting the good fight, the fight to make a difference. Christopher Reeve and Roman have had a positive impact on thousands of lives. Talk about heroes.

Another hero is someone I don’t even know. I was sitting in the UC Davis Cancer Center waiting room, as a patient, not as a scientist. I was waiting for a checkup with the surgeon who did my surgery for prostate cancer.  These visits are not exactly fun to put it mildly. So I was sitting there and I overheard a conversation. A newbie prostate cancer patient, clearly extremely upset and overwhelmed, was awaiting a doctor’s visit. This guy was clearly in serious emotional pain. Next to him was an old-timer prostate cancer patient, a guy I’d seen before in the waiting room. The old timer was facing a very serious situation of his own. His cancer was metastatic and it was not clear how much time he had left. There he was in the waiting room for his visit, but his entire attention was focused on the new guy. He was spending some of the precious little time he had left in life, helping someone else. He was talking him through the situation, calming him down without patronizing him. He wasn’t thinking of his own situation at all, but was focused on helping this other person–a total stranger–feel at least a little better.

Who are your heroes and why?

Often times the biggest heroes are not the movie stereotype, but instead are people just like us who choose to fight, often against long odds, to make the lives of others better. They take risks and put themselves on the line. They get up every day, even facing serious illness and despite pain or seemingly unsurmountable obstacles,  and they make things happen. Important, positive things become reality.

Cheers to them.

3 Comments


  1. Bit late to the party on this post, but wanted to add my 2pence (2 cents) to this by saying that I agree we should know more about the good guys and especially about Christopher Reeve. It’s a testiment to his efforts and work that only recently (and sadly postumously) I had learned what a truly great human being he was. What he and his wife achieved is an example to us all. I recall talking about him very recently and particularly in reference to the recent clinical trial commenced using hES cells for spinal injuries – which he never lived to see. That I think would have been reward enough for him.

    Wish there were more like him in the world.

    Dave.

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