First Word: Darkness into Light

On Dancing with the Stars Noah Galloway holds his partner Sharna Burgess aloft. (Photo courtesy ABC's Dancing With the Stars)

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
August / September 2015

“I believe in being better, not bitter.”  — Noah Galloway

“If you have your health you have everything,” my mother Norrie used to say. She said a lot of things that used to annoy me. Another catch-phrase when some difficult task was at hand: “It will build character,” or the adage, “There’s no use crying over spilt milk.”

As I grew older I realized that my mother was giving me survival tips, reminders that life doesn’t always break your way but you can’t let it break you, so keep on going. Working on this issue of Irish America another of her dictums came to mind: “Don’t be bitter. Bitterness corrodes.”

No one wants to be bitter, but since we are human it is easy to get caught up in self pity and ruminate on problems large and little. The antidote to such self-centeredness is to turn our attention to those who have experienced adversities that dwarf our own and not only survived, but thrived.

This issue is full of such stories.

I came away with such a positive frame of mind from my conversation with Noah Galloway, the subject of our cover story, and full to the brim with admiration at how, despite having lost an arm and a leg in a roadside bomb in Iraq, he has channeled his anger into action and ultimate fitness. Now at the height of his physical power, he’s inspiring others to drop the “pity party” and accept a healthier lifestyle and attitude. “I believe in being better, not bitter,” Noah says. No excuses.

Mary Pat Kelly profiled a group of women rowers – all breast cancer survivors – whose journey to recovery involves racing “dragon boats” while at the same time cleaning up Flushing Bay, one of our most toxic waterways. It is another inspiring story, as is Sharon Ní Chonchúir’s piece on Joan Freeman who turned the tragedy of her sister’s death into a suicide prevention project, and is now bringing her “Darkness Into Light” awareness message to the U.S.

Also in this issue, Rosemary Rogers writes about Margaret Higgins Sanger and her long struggle to legalize birth control in the U.S. Meanwhile, Leslie McCrea shines a light on Sister Bernie Kenny who founded St. Mary’s Health Wagon, a service that brings mobile healthcare to the uninsured in rural Virginia.

Tom Deignan’s story takes us back to 9/11 and the on-going health effects suffered by firemen who were part of the clean-up effort. But here too is inspiration in the creation of a community center on Long Island to honor the last wishes of firefighter Johnny Mac.

We don’t know what’s around the corner for us, or how we would meet adversity should it come our way, but these individuals serve as lighthouses that show us the grace and beauty of what it is to be human and just how precious life and wellness are. The same can be said for our 50 honorees in Healthcare and Life Sciences who are on the cutting edge of research – challenging Alzeimer’s, diseases of the eye, heart ailments and other afflictions. In their capacity as scientists, doctors, and caregivers, they are on the frontlines, touching people’s lives every day.

My mother was a health care professional too. A graduate of St. Vincent Hospital’s first class of women radiographers, she loved her profession and the world of medicine so much that where her last child, Ciaran, the youngest of 13, went off to school, she returned to work. It wasn’t easy, yet she saw to it that we were all loved and fed and well read. Though there was much in her life that she could have been bitter about, she always rose above it.

This one’s for you, Ma. ♦


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