In response to March “Celebrating Women” Month, I needed time to give my response serious consideration.

By definition, heroes are not ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary ways. Heroes are determined to achieve their goals regardless of obstacles.

My sister: ordinarily extraordinary
My hero is my sister, who battled a mental illness for thirty-five years before succumbing to it. However, at a young age, she was also a casualty of a senseless war. The trauma from that conflict followed her throughout her life.

She was an ordinary person, living in regular times but battling an extraordinary but little-known disease at the time. The mental anguish ravaged her body and carved her five-foot six-inch frame to a mere eighty pounds when she died.

She was a strong student with all the brainpower going for her and entertained lofty goals for her future.

Many times, though, she saw her plans evaporate through a mental haze that she could not control. She was bullied in elementary school for her immigrant appearance, long braids, and gifted talents. She was isolated in high school and at home, too, as no one understood what propelled her down a path of self-destruction. No doubt, she created chaos, animosity, and conflict in the family so that it was a challenge even to like her.

Nevertheless, she was determined and believed that she could and would transcend all her difficulties with strength and vision.

She was an Ontario Scholar who studied languages at the University of Toronto. At the end of that education, she was fluent in six languages. But her disease, an eating disorder, continued to progress, putting up roadblocks everywhere she turned.

She was limited in job options, but even then, she forged ahead. Her body and mind deteriorated to a state of non-functionality. But she kept on going. She was involved in a ballet organization where she was instrumental in helping advantaged girls make the most of their talents. Her empathy for them knew no bounds. She was a ballerina herself but never had a chance to realize her dancing dream.

In the end, she recognized and accepted the disease. Her body and mind could no longer go on, but her will was strong. Anorexia Nervosa took her life too soon, but she left me with her legacy of determination and stubbornness, to be sure, to fight to live until there is no life left to live. An incredible young woman under the heavy cloak of a destructive disease.

Éva H.

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