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What Kind of Hero Are You?

“As we go from a look into the rock star world, let’s move into our real world. What does it mean to be a hero?” – Patricia Fripp, Keynote Speaker and Executive Speech Coach

I was first diagnosed with Stage I knee cancer called Osteosarcoma at 14 years old from 1999-2000, and while doing my chemotherapy treatment, I had to get a knee replacement to save my right leg. While doing chemotherapy treatment, I came across Hip-Hop artist Nas and his Stillmatic album.

I knew who Nas was, but at the time I wasn’t a fan because I wasn’t familiar with his previous albums. I was battling a life-threatening disease during the same time Stillmatic was released, and I resonated with his lyrics about his personal life, the conscious and political content about the world we live in, bridging the gap between African and African American history, and how important it is to never give up.

While I was diagnosed with cancer, it brought a lot of stress because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I also experienced a wide range of emotions from anger, fear, sadness, and guilt.

Nas’ Stillmatic helped me uplift my mind, body, and soul. When I first heard the first track off the album, “Stillmatic (The Intro),” it helped me believe I could defeat cancer. The song helped change my state of mind of feeling sorry myself, guilty, and to make the best of my situation.

Listening to music while going through chemotherapy treatment allowed me to keep my mind off the discomfort that was caused by the treatment. For instance, the music helped me cope with the stress, fear, and the loneliness I was feeling.

While listening to the music, it was easy for me to be taken away from the serious reality I was forced to go through at the time. For example, Nas’ Stillmatic album helped ease the tension while I was undergoing chemotherapy, and it helped me with my overall stress throughout the day.

When I was 17 years old, the same cancer came back in my right knee at Stage IV. I had to undergo chemotherapy all over again, and I had to get my right leg amputated in 2003. Now I am a hip amputee and could only walk with a prosthetic leg.

In 2008, I was 23 years old and have been a hip amputee for five years. During the 2008-2009 school year, I got accepted to attend California State University, Long Beach to finish my undergraduate studies.

Before transitioning to the university, I came across the Hip-Hop group, The Pharcyde. They are an alternative Hip-Hop group from Los Angeles, CA consisting of four members: Imani, Bootie Brown, FatLip and Simkid Tre. I came across their song, “Runnin’,” which is about dealing with peer pressure, bullying, and to not run away from problems.

When I became a hip amputee, I felt different and alone because there was nobody I could relate to. To my knowledge, none members of The Pharcyde has ever had cancer or became a hip amputee, but their lyrics throughout their Labcabincalifornia album showed me how to be authentic, and to not be ashamed about what I was forced to become: a two-time cancer survivor and hip amputee.

Cole MacGrath from the inFAMOUS videogame franchise is my favorite video game character and superhero because of how he was able to deal with his burdens and move forward with his life.

During the introduction of the original inFAMOUS, Cole was delivering a package, and it exploded leveling six square blocks of Empire City. Leaving Cole at the center, alive, but changed and able to control electricity. Cole looked at his new-found powers as a burden, and he knew he had a responsibility to save what was left of the city or destroy it.

This is where the karma system comes in because depending on Cole’s actions throughout the game. The civilians react to Cole as being a superhero or supervillain or “Famous” or “inFAMOUS.”

For example, when Cole is a superhero, the civilians will say, “You give us something to believe in,” and they’ll pull out their cell phones and say, “Hey look it’s Cole!” and take pictures of him while he is saving the city. The women in the game will ask if he dates normal girls or if he has a girlfriend.

When Cole is a supervillain, the civilians will protest him by chatting, “Cole is Crap!”, “Kill MacGrath!” and say, “You’re the reason why we have a death penalty!” They also form mobs around him and throw rocks chatting, “Let’s kill him before he kills us!”

There are “karma” moments in the game where Cole must think on his feet and do what he feels is right to him. For instance, civilians will approach Cole and ask him to heal somebody who are seriously injured. Cole has the choice to heal the person, or not care and go on about his business.

Depending on Cole’s actions, his appearance changes. For instance, Hero Cole is clean and pristine. His electricity is blue, and his powers are defensive. He can also heal civilians and arc-restrain his enemies, which are electrical handcuffs.

inFAMOUS Cole appears dirty, with veins visibly showing throughout his body and he has red bloodshot eyes. His electricity is red, and his powers are about creating collateral damage killing anybody who gets in his way. He also drains the electrical charges from people killing them instantly, but re-healing himself in the process.

I was at Loma Linda Children's Hospital (Loma Linda, CA) hooked up to an IV pole with my Grandmother and Uncle by my bedside; similar to Cole (inFAMOUS videogame franchise) who was also in the hospital hooked up to an IV pole with his girlfriend Trish and best friend Zeke by his bedside.

In 1999, this photo was taken of me when I was 14 years old, and the other image I lifted from the original inFAMOUS, which was released in 2009.

I connected with the way Cole carried himself throughout the first two inFAMOUS games on the PlayStation 3. Cole was just making a routine delivery as a bike messenger, then his life changed instantly when the package exploded.

Like when I was 14 years old, I only went to Silverado High School for the first week in 1999 as a freshman. I was in the hospital for over a year because I had knee cancer, had to do chemotherapy treatment, and had to get a knee replacement.

Cole was a person that was forced to deal with having to control electricity, just like I was forced to deal with having knee cancer when I was 14 years old. Even though Cole looked at being able to control electricity as a burden, he didn’t complain about it a lot. He knew this was something that happened to him, and he dealt with it the best way he could and with minimal complaining.

I was inspired by how Cole dealt with controlling electricity because I also looked at myself with having cancer two-times and losing my right leg at 17 years old as a burden. I was confused and complained about what happened to me because it was a drastic change in my life.

Once I realized there was nothing I could do to bring my real leg back. I started to slowly accept that this is who and what I am now. When the original inFAMOUS was released May 26th, 2009. I finally found my Garden of Eden within the digital world of inFAMOUS and Cole MacGrath’s inspirational story.

What Kind of Hero Are You?

I believe the reason why I gravitated towards Nas, The Pharcyde, and the inFAMOUS videogame franchise was because of the meaning behind their names.

For instance, Nas’ name in Arabic means “Helper and Protector.” The Pharcyde name is an acronym they made up called “B.O.T.T.T.O.S,” which means “break on through to the other side,” which also means be different by being creative.

The developers of inFAMOUS, Sucker Punch Productions spelled “inFAMOUS” that way because based on Cole’s actions, the world would recognize him as being “Famous” or “inFAMOUS.”

I was inspired by the meanings behind the names of Nas, The Pharcyde, and inFAMOUS when I created “CalmandStrong.” I made sure there was a meaning behind my company name, tagline, and logo.

• “CalmandStrong” Company Name: I have a calming personality, and I’m strong because of the adversities I was forced to overcome.

• “Nothing is More Powerful Than a Made up Mind” Tagline: Captures my story connected with Cole’s perfectly because we are both strong minded, strong willed, and we followed through on the decisions we made in life.

• “CalmandStrong” Logo: The doves flying around the world symbolize God’s angels who were protecting and healing me while I was battling cancer as a teenager.

“Heroes aspire to embody three attributes: the clarity to see what is required of them, the courage to accept what is required of them, and the capacity to discharge what is required of them. Clarity, Courage, and Capacity.”

- Patricia Fripp, Keynote Speaker and Executive Speech Coach

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I don’t own any content from the inFAMOUS images. All images content is copyright to their respective owners. No Copyright Intended.

I do not own any content displayed from inFAMOUS (2009). The images displayed were captured and lifted from my personal playthrough of the original inFAMOUS video game.

All Rights go to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), developed by Sucker Punch Productions.

I don’t own any content from Nas and The Pharcyde. No Copyright Intended. All image and lyric content is copyright to their respective owners. All rights go to Nas and The Pharcyde.

I don’t own any content from Patricia Fripp. She is a great public speaking role model having a 30-plus year career as a top speaker. Quotes were retrieved from Patricia Fripp’s Newsletter, “How to Be a Hero for More Than One Day.”

Fripp shares valuable information for aspiring professional speakers who want to prepare and present powerful presentations.

Nas logo. Digital image. Brands of the World., n.d. Web. 10 April 2018.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. All-Stars Roster Cole MacGrath. Sony Interactive Entertainment. Web. 10 April. 2018.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. All-Stars Roster Evil Cole MacGrath. Sony Interactive Entertainment. Web. 10 April. 2018.

PSNProfiles. inFamous 2 Trophies. inFAMOUS 2 Logo. April 10, 2018.

The Pharcyde Image. Digital image. Delicious Vinyl. Delicious Vinyl, n.d. Web. 10 April 2018.

Totally Gaming Network. inFAMOUS Logo. Infamous – Review | PlayStation 3 Reviews. January 11, 2013. April 10, 2018.

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