Inspire, inspiring, inspirational: these words are thrown around on a daily basis but what do they actually mean? No, let me rephrase that: what do they actually mean to YOU? Even more to the point: WHO inspires you and WHY?
Ask the average person the latter question and an in all likelihood they will respond with the name of a famous person: an actor, singer, politician or a sporting hero for example. While I have the utmost respect and admiration for these individuals and their talents I must confess that I prefer to seek inspiration that bit closer to home.
I would like to introduce you to three people who are an inspiration to me. They are not celebrities or household names - do a google search and you're unlikely to get a hit. They are ordinary, every day folk like you and I; they have a mortgage, bills to pay, families to take care of and challenges to face and overcome. Chances are you may not find them particularly exceptional. But I do. And that's what counts.
The very first time I met Catherine I was half-naked and slippery with oil. Control your naughty thoughts my Warrior friends, Catherine used to be a massage therapist and had been highly recommended to me by a mutual friend. I liked Catherine instantly and not just because she brought sweet relief to my aching muscles but because she has a warmth and kindness to her that draw people in. During the course of our conversations I discovered that her younger daughter, Cerys, was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Do you know what that is? I didn't. Not a clue. Hadn't even heard of it. When I returned home that evening I took to the internet and was saddened by what I read. It turned out that Cystic Fibrosis, or CF, is a rare genetic disorder affecting the lungs, pancreas and other organs. The mucus of CF sufferers becomes thick and sticky thereby building up in the lungs and blocking the airways. This buildup of mucus makes it easy for bacteria to grow which, in turn, leads to repeated, serious lung infections. There is currently no cure.
Catherine and her husband Paul had no idea that they were both were carriers of the faulty gene and Cerys was not diagnosed until she had a heel prick test at 4 weeks old. The GP called the family and asked if he could come to their home to discuss the results. The doctor sat down and before he had even uttered a word Catherine looked him straight in the eye and asked: "How long has she got?".
Cerys is now nine, ten at the end of this month and is a bright, articulate young lady. She is also a gifted musician and plays the trombone, tenor horn and piano. Beautifully. I have seen her perform. To look at Cerys you would think there was nothing wrong with her whatsoever, that she was no different from any of her peers. Spend a day at home with Catherine and Cerys and the differences become all too apparent. First of all there are the deep breathing techniques to try and bring up the mucus from the bottom of the lungs. Then there is the physio. "Physio" is a euphemism for the pounding that Catherine must inflict upon Cerys several times a day in an attempt to shift the sticky mucus. And let's not forget the concoctions of drugs that she takes on a daily basis: vitamins, digestive enzymes, anti-inflammatory medication, oral antibiotics.. and that is on a good day! As I write this Cerys has just returned home from hospital having been hit hard by an infection. She must now take antibiotics three times a day - intravenously.
Catherine fervently believes that a cure will be found during her daughter's lifetime and tirelessly campaigns to raise money and awareness. In April of last year, along with a friend whose son also has CF, Catherine shaved off her hair (she is on the right) and between them they raised a staggering £10,000. Look at them.
Aren't they absolutely beautiful?
Catherine, you have been and continue to be a shining example to me and those around you. Your inner strength, determination, faith and selfless devotion to your daughter both humble and inspire.
DEBBIE "DEB-OH-RAH" HILL
Inspirational person number two is Debbie Hill, my Head of Department, my boss, my long-suffering, ever -tolerant leader. If idol worship was illegal I'd be behind bars serving hard time, that's how much I admire and feel inspired by this pint-sized force of nature.
My first encounter with Debbie was when she interviewed me for my job. She took me on a tour around the school and it didn't take me long to realise that here was somebody that I wanted to work for. I must explain that at the time I wasn't even sure if I wanted to continue teaching; I was at a bit of a crossroads and considering other career paths elsewhere in the world. When I was offered the job I hesitated, unsure whether or not to accept. I did accept but was very honest and open with Debbie and expressed my doubts and concerns. (Note: I generally tend to be open and honest and it doesn't always go down particularly well. That will more than likely be the topic of a future blog post.) She listened intently, as she always does, and assured me that I was the right person for the job, that she had faith in me and would always support me. And she always has. Unwavering.
Her support extends to all members of the department, of course, and I don't think any of my colleagues would disagree with my assessment of Debbie which makes her a rare commodity indeed. I mean, how many bosses do you know that are universally liked, admired and respected by those they lead?
She is, in short, (no sizeist references intended) an inspirational lady who leads by example and with honesty, integrity, an abundance of professionalism and stacks of good humour: she likes to laugh and has no issues laughing at herself. And did I mention she is a black belt in karate? She may be small but she is fierce. Don't mess with her.
Deb-0h-rah, you are my boss but before that and forever after that you are my friend and mentor.
My Auntie Yvonne isn't actually my auntie at all. Not by blood in any case. But I've never believed that blood is thicker than water so I love her every bit as much as my real aunties.
At the age of 21 Auntie Yvonne was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a potentially debilitating condition which causes pain and swelling in the joints. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and Auntie Yvonne had it bad. I wasn't aware just how bad her condition was until when, at the age of 13, I became a frequent visitor to the Cargill household.
At the time Auntie Yvonne was awaiting the arrival of Nicholas, her second child, and my mum asked if I would be willing to go over and lend a hand as she was struggling with being pregnant and looking after a toddler. Being with child whilst minding a busy three year old is a challenge for any healthy mother, let alone someone who finds it hard to walk at times! I was happy to oblige.
From the age of 13, up until I left to go to university when I was 17, I practically lived with Auntie Yvonne and as far as I was concerned Nicholas was my baby. In fact, when I used to take him out in his buggy I would pretend just that!
As the years passed the rheumatoid was tightening its grip which saw Auntie Yvonne undergo several operations in order to try and alleviate the pain and make life that bit more comfortable and bearable. I say "several" operations when I would prefer to be more specific but the truth is that she has had so many I have lost count. And to be honest, the less I can list the better as even thinking about them makes me come over all funny. In any case, the ones that I can recall include:
- two wrist replacements (I didn't even know they could do that!!)
- 4 knuckle replacements
- 2 knee replacements
- surgery on both elbows to repair nerve damage
- neck surgery to relieve spinal pressure
I know for a fact that there are more but I think you get the painful, gory picture. Less graphic but even more numerous are the pills she must pop on a daily basis:
- steroids (she is on them for life)
- 9 pills in the morning
- 1 pill late afternoon
- 2 pills at 8pm
- 6 more pills before bed.
A veritable, walking pharmacy. The irony is that the medication that she has taken for decades to control the arthritic symptoms have weakened her heart and seven years ago she suffered a heart attack. She bounced back. She always does, because despite the pain, the discomfort, the operations, the constant pill-popping my Auntie Yvonne is a remarkably upbeat, confident and gregarious person who has achieved a great deal in spite of the limitations imposed upon her. She confronts life with a steely determination and insists that she is a stronger, better person for the challenges she has faced and ultimately conquered. It has made her all the more grateful for the things that she can do and she feels truly blessed to have such a loving and supportive family around her. Her husband, my Uncle Steve, has been her rock. And personal dresser: socks and tights prove a tad too challenging for stiff joints!
Auntie Yvonne, you have always been there for me, with advice and counsel at the ready when you were probably in need of it more than I. I have watched in awe as you have fought one battle after another and emerged triumphant. What I'm basically trying to say is that you inspire me.
Ginger Warrior, over and out.
P.S. WHO INSPIRES YOU??! Come on Warriors, there's a comment box below and it's just waiting for you - don't be shy!! :) xxxx
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