By Debbie Kerr
As a teenager, I played on my local softball team. I was pretty good. I could hit. I could catch. I played nearly every position on the team at some point or other. I was proud of my play until there was… the incident.
This incident went on to be the one aspect of my ball career that my family remembers. Not the great catches or the hits to win a game. They remember the time when I was in left field and I ran to where the ball had been hit. All I had to do was pick up the ball and throw it to the correct base, just like I did many times before. Unfortunately, this game was different. When I bent down to pick up the ball, I accidentally kicked it. I ran to get it and I kicked it again. I just couldn’t seem to pick up the ball and I heard my father yell, “Throw a basket over it.”
Believe me, at that point, I wanted to climb under the basket too.
Little did I know, as bad as that experience seemed, I would be in a similar game in the future, but it would be for much higher stakes. I would be playing in a game against cancer and would, once again, be out in left field.
Breast Cancer and I first met in 2011, and the relationship between the two of us was rocky right from the start. In fact, it set up a life-long rivalry. Breast Cancer threw ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) at me, but I was able to knock both those balls right out of the park with a mastectomy, chemo, and radiation. The crowd (at least in my head) went wild.
However, even with my win, everyone was concerned that Breast Cancer would return and no one, especially me, wanted a rematch. To help keep that from happening, I drafted Tamoxifen to be on my team. During the seven years I was with Tamoxifen, my cancer didn’t return, but it didn’t mean that Tamoxifen and I always got along. In fact, it was Tamoxifen that started swinging and sending balls out to left field.
The rules of the game
Ironically, in a game against Cancer (or anything related to cancer), there are no rules. There is no structure so you don’t know how long you will be playing. You don’t know exactly what will be coming your way. You don’t know if it will be the same ball you had last time (in my case breast cancer) or if it will be an entirely different ball (for example, uterine cancer). Since Cancer is a switch hitter, you don’t know if the ball will come to the same spot as last time or someplace entirely different.
As if that doesn’t make the game difficult enough, you don’t know for sure when the game starts. What you might think signals the start of the game, for example, a lump, could mean absolutely nothing. You could start a game when there really isn’t a game in town. Each time, whether there is a game or not, your adrenaline levels go up as you prepare to do battle. Any kind of game with Cancer, whether or not there is a rematch, can be emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting. In fact, you might feel like you played an actual game.
Here are a few tips:
Perhaps one of the biggest things to remember is that sometimes parents make mistakes. While my dad told me to throw a basket over it during the ball “incident”, when dealing with Cancer, it is better to have the basket under the ball rather than over it for the following reasons:
With Cancer, you may feel like you are in left field, but that doesn’t mean there is even a game. All you can really do is be calm and be vigilant while you live the very best life that you can.
Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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