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David Bowie showed another way to be a hero in quiet cancer fight

British athletes enter the stadium to David Bowie's "Heroes'' during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

David Bowie’s “Heroes” played when Great Britain’s athletes entered the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics. It was goosebumps stuff — not because the athletes were heroes but because it was a reminder that we all have the capacity to be valiant, in whatever measure.

Bowie died Sunday of cancer, and he went out like a hero, the quiet kind, the best kind.

There’s no right way to deal with terminal cancer, but the private way isn’t a bad way to go. The compulsion to make one’s cancer fight a tent revival, as a number of our national broadcasters have, escapes me. Raising awareness and money is a wonderful goal, but are we sure Bowie’s dignified approach won’t do the same? Are we sure that news of his death and the reserved way he handled his 18-month ordeal won’t lead to increased giving to fight the disease?

Bowie’s last album was released last week, his art getting in the last word.

Pale and painfully thin, he was the farthest thing from an athlete you could find, though I suppose his evening-dress wear could have inspired Dennis Rodman. But he went out like a champion, with grace. Any athlete worth his salt would be proud to go out like that.

“Heroes,’’ co-written with Brian Eno, is about two lovers on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall, according to one interpretation. But it’s not a stretch to view it as a melodic fight song for the underdog. Bowie always leaned in the direction of the long shot, the marginalized. It’s why the song was played so often at sporting events.

We can beat them, just for one day

We can be heroes, just for one day

We’re all up against it, one way or another, whether it be paying the bills or wondering how to hold on to our values. How will we react?