My Life’s Great Battle: Reflecting on What Inspires Me

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by Ari Anderson |

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sma technology | SMA News Today | Main graphic for "Soaring With Hope," a column by Ari Anderson

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been taught that I am a soldier in this war against SMA. My destiny is to help others fight it, too. Early on, people gave me gifts to help me remember my purpose.

One person, inspired by my fight against an overwhelming opponent, gave me a pair of boxing gloves when I was 2. I’ve thought about that gift throughout my life, because it came to symbolize that while pneumonia or other setbacks may knock me down for the count, I always get up before the referee counts to 10.

Maybe this explains my love of the “Rocky” movies about boxing. I mean, I dare you to watch the training scene in “Rocky IV” and not feel like you can punch your way through life. I certainly feel that way when I watch it.

I received another precious gift from a World War II veteran who not only was a hero on the battlefield, but also to my family. When I was a baby, we had to move to another state where we didn’t know anyone, so that I could receive an experimental treatment. While I was in the hospital, my family was on the verge of becoming homeless due to the high cost of medical bills. This stranger, along with his wife, kindly intervened, taking my family in while I received treatment.

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A veteran of war, he knew how much courage it took to fight an ugly battle, and he saw bravery in me. Because I faced chronic pneumonia for many years, and I would go into respiratory arrest every night, the man decided to give me his own Medal of Bravery that he had received from the battle of Iwo Jima!

What I’ve gone through isn’t even close to what he’s experienced. But the sacrifices he’s made and the gift of his medal have convinced me to never surrender, no matter what I face.

Perhaps that Medal of Bravery is what inspired my lifelong love of military history. I particularly enjoy war stories about an underdog force facing overwhelming odds in the name of freedom. What comes to my mind is how at one point during World War II, Great Britain faced Germany alone.

I was just watching the movie “Darkest Hour,” about the enormous pressure the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill faced to negotiate peace with Adolf Hitler while Germany was ravaging the rest of Europe. Churchill knew he couldn’t negotiate when the country faced tyranny and a loss of freedom.

All my life, I’ve been inspired by stories like these. I draw parallels to my own life. I see myself as fighting against the tyranny of SMA and diligently working to maintain my freedom through an improved quality of life for myself and others.

It may seem strange, but I often go to the extreme when fantasizing about the similarities between my battles with SMA and actual war. For instance, when I have a respiratory infection, I think of my lungs as being invaded by an enemy army, bacteria. I use artillery, or medical technology like the Vest airway clearance machine, to shake up or blast the invading bacteria to bits.

You can also play games that get you motivated. Try drawing parallels between your life and whatever stories you like. See if it inspires you, too!

Just writing about this has motivated me. So, the next time your spirit needs a pick-me-up, write down whatever has encouraged you in the past. No one has to see what you write if you don’t want them to. Refer to it whenever you feel down. Find out what embodies your inspiration, and then breathe life into it each and every day. This strategy can lift many burdens!


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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