History tells tales of female warriors, some well-known to all, such as Joan of Arc, and others with less recognizable names, such as Æthelflæd—a name you will recognize if you’re a history buff or simply a devotee of the BBC-Netflix co-produced television series, The Last Kingdom. These women were brave and experienced fighters; the definition of a warrior. But I don’t need to turn to history to name an exceptional female warrior. I need look no further than my own family.
If you were to meet my sister Sally, the image of a warrior might not be the first thing that would come to mind. But you haven’t accompanied Sally into battle. You see, my sister has narcolepsy, an incurable neurological disorder with a host of troubling symptoms, the most obvious being a major interruption in the brain's sleep-wake cycle. For Sally, this means she cannot control falling asleep at the most inconvenient of times. In high school, she was labeled “lazy” because she fell asleep reading. Sally was well into her thirties when she was diagnosed with narcolepsy. I have watched over the years how it has impacted her. She might fall asleep during a child’s graduation, while dining at a restaurant, while she’s in the middle of a task at work or, most recently, while bird watching with me when she fell asleep (literally) standing up Sally is a warrior; she is a brave and experienced fighter. She lives everyday with narcolepsy and faces it head on. She never complains. She fights to stay awake, working at her own dog grooming business with her husband. Sally honors her family, work and community commitments. She is a loving mother and devoted grandmother to seven grandchildren. She takes care of her body and works out regularly to maintain her stamina and muscles. In spite of the challenges she faces living with narcolepsy, Sally looks at life with good humor and gratitude.
Sally may not have played a role in the Hundred Years' War between France and England like Joan of Arc, nor can she claim victory against invading Viking warriors as did Æthelflæd, the daughter of King Alfred of Wessex. Sally does not wield a steel sword nor command an army. Rather, Sally is a spiritual warrior and an amazing woman. Her disciplined persistence, mental focus, and willingness to face discomfort, discouragement and fear make her one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known. Sally the Warrior…my sister and friend.