Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When do you stop playing the cancer card?

First of all, I know it's not a game, but that's the way many of us refer to it, partly in jest but partly seriously.

The question comes up when you have enough distance to wonder under which circumstances you might be tempted to use cancer as an 'excuse' for perceived weakness.

A larger question is at what point you stop mentioning it so frequently. This is not the same thing as 'playing the cancer card,' but I noticed that when talking with someone new the other day, I didn't even mention it when we discussed our running routines.

In a way that surprised me, because I am used to describing myself at least partially in the context of my medical odyssey. I was pleased that I had enough distance to describe myself in another capacity, i.e. runner.

 If I had provided any caveat, it might have been that I am coming back from a fractured foot rather than I am coming back from my fourth bone marrow transplant and a coma. (We did get onto the subject of stress fractures, and this die-hard marathoner had me beat, having already suffered four.)

I'm more likely to use the cancer card when playing tennis with good friends. I'll say jokingly, "Sorry I missed that ball, but I was in a coma not too long ago." I try not to do it often, because a little joking about that goes a long way.

 I thought about this today at our Wednesday clinic with George. It's like camp for grown-ups. We do drills for hand-eye coordination and racquet control and play little games before we actually get to play doubles. (It's a pretty inexpensive camp: More than three hours of drilling and playing on clay courts overlooking the Connecticut River for $10 each.)

In one of our games today, George placed a tennis ball on a pretty high post at the center of the net. We played mini-tennis (using only part of the court), and if you hit the post without letting the ball bounce, your team won the game.

I hit it twice, and our team won two games to one.

We reported our scores (and told him which of us on the three courts had hit the post) and sat down for a break. George said everyone was welcome to return at 6 for a similar clinic.

"Ha!" I said.

He looked at me quizzically.

"You New Englanders are all the same," said George, who happens to be one too. "You wait all winter for summer to come, and then all you want to do is sit inside your air-conditioned homes."

Hey George, we were outside right then in the heat, but what the heck.

Now that I write it, his comment sounds kind of harsh, but if you knew him you'd know not to take him too seriously and accept comments like that as part of the banter.

I didn't speak loudly enough to share this with the group, but I did lean over and say to him just as we were about to return to the courts, "People tell me I should try not to overdo it. You know where I came from."

He does know, because he helped bring me back each time.

He looked at me blankly.

 "You think I'm far enough past it that I should stop using that as an excuse?" I asked.

"Yes, anyone who can hit the post twice doesn't need to do that."

OK then.


donna said...

We love George!

PJ said...

Good for you. Playing tennis, and having the realization that you've been through hell but can gloss over it or not mention it at all. Only my coaches at Team in Training know my history, and the gvh does impact my running, but we play the cards we're dealt. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but I think we're always winning. We're still here!

Ann said...

I struggle with the same issue. I find that I rarely mention cancer when speaking to strangers and that people who know me are surprised by what I can and can't do. I suppose our bodies will let us know when we've ventured too far outside of the protective cocoons we've been sheltered in. Great job with your running and tennis.

donna said...

After playing tennis with you yesterday, I can see another instance of you moving farther away from your cancer "experience." I was surprised to learn that neither one of the other players, whom you have been playing with all summer, knew anything of your ordeal. They were stunned when I brought it up and told them about what you have been through. Nobody would know if they weren't told, even when playing a tricky and physical sport like tennis. You have come a LONG way, baby! P.S. You left your tennis bag at my house. I'll bring it to Grande Meadows.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Terrific-Tennis-Runder-Woman?

Ronni, you have never simply played the cancer card -- you have beaten cancer -- against all odds -- You are a Runderful Winner --
Keep writing about the cancer -- you are an inspiration to so many people...

i could think of several excuses for not being athletic -- since i am not -- You, my darling, are astonishing! You do my English biological grandfather proud! he used to play tennis with the king of Sweden --

Keep up the good Sport so that i can get in shape --

and ditto to what Donna said: Praise to George!
Ditto Donna again! "You've come a long way...Runni..."