Jewish Journal


October 23, 2013

A girl finds strength to ‘Roar’ despite brain cancer



Rarely do I find myself on the verge of tears when I read a story. As a journalist, I've developed an emotional teflon coating to shield me from even the most emotional anecdotes of love and loss--because frankly, otherwise the world just seems too bleak.

Today, I was forwarded a story by my publisher that would tug at even the taughtest of heart strings. I'm shaking as I write this, feeling my chest tighten up and trying not to cry at the office (never a flattering look), because lordy, does it hit close to home.

I'll preface the story with this: it is a story of hope, courage and strength when faced with the toughest of enemies--a body that has gone rogue.

Olivia Wise is a 17 year old from Toronto, and she's battling brain cancer.

What most people don't understand about brain cancer is that it can be the cruelest of thieves, robbing you of every part of your body and mind--but it's often impossible to know what part will go rogue and when.

Despite being unable to stand or walk (or easily breath, for that matter) Wise recently went into a recording studio for the first time and did a heartwrenchingly sincere cover of Katy Perry's hit single, 'Roar.' Her talent is undeniable and her spirit is obviously nearly-unshakable.

The emotional strength she must have is awe-inspiring. Having watched a good friend succumb to a brain tumor, and another continue to battle--now for nearly a decade--I've seen first-hand how brain cancer ravages the body.

According to the YouTube account that's hosting this video:

She couldn't walk or stand, she didn't have her full breath or the energy she used to, and she was managing her new pains and new limitations. While her physical condition was rapidly fading, her spirit remained untouched.

Olivia is a fighter and has gone through the fire, in fact, she was going through the fire while she recorded this song, but you wouldn't know it, because she was dancing right through it. She is an inspiration, a champion, and my hero. This is her Roar.

And in the email sent to us about this story, the sender notes:

[Olivia] used every last bit of her strength to make this video. We are trying to make sure that her voice is now heard around the world.

I have no doubt that this used all her strength, her deepest reserves and then some. When simply having a conversation is enough to wear you out, I honestly don't know how she did this. 

And the lyrics, when sung by Wise, slowed down and accompanied by a simple piano, have taken on a whole new meaning. If I was Katy Perry, I'd be honored to have this rendition of my song recorded by someone like Wise.

In the end, it's the fragility of her voice that gets to me--that makes me think of my dear friend, Edd, who had  an equally robust spirit despite his failing body.

Her strength reminded me of his strength, and in turn, of him, the friend I often talk to, even though I know he can't hear me anymore.

Olivia, thank you for being you. Thank you for making me think of my friend.

Your strength, your voice and your story are touching more people than you'd ever think possible.

May everything be easier for you from here on out. May your voice be heard around the world.

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