Friday, September 5, 2008
Friday morning tennis hits the spot
For as long as I can remember, weather and health permitting, Friday morning has been tennis morning. That usually means playing at 7:30 or 8 a.m., quickly showering and then dashing into work, hair still damp and mind still on the last point.
When you've had three bone marrow transplants and spent weeks in the hospital and months recovering, for a long time tennis is just a memory or something to watch on TV. Until, at last, you come back. I've had two successful comebacks and am now trying for my third.
Yesterday at my clinic visit (day 86) my hematocrit was up to 28, from 26 at my last visit 10 days earlier. I got my second shot of Aranesp , a drug used to treat anemia after chemotherapy. It's interesting that now I think of 28 as "up." Days before I was first diagnosed in 2003, I ran an entire 10-K road race with my hematocrit "down" to 28. I guess my conditioning was better back then.
This morning, as I headed out to play tennis with my friend Ken from work, I had that old Friday feeling. We just hit for a while, and then I proposed playing a set just to see what happened.
"Don't baby me," I said.
He didn't exactly baby me, but let's just say that although I won 6-4, it wasn't exactly fair and square. For starters, he said that due to a shoulder injury, he would serve underhand, so I should remember to stand closer up.
We talked for a minute about Michael Chang's surprise fifth-set use of an underhand serve in his comeback win against Ivan Lendl in the 1989 French Open.
Ken also said that due to being sore from a tough run the day before, his lateral movement was not great.
So basically, he was giving me my game plan.
Every time he was about to serve, I moved back to the baseline where I would normally go.
"Move up, move up," he kept reminding me.
I remembered to hit drop shots and move the ball around.
In between points I took a few deep breaths and walked around the court for a minute, letting the breeze brush against my face. It was really warm, sunny and humid, but it felt good to be out there.
I asked him if he wanted to play another set, but he said he didn't want to be the one to do me in.
And I remembered that I need to stop before I'm tired.
I went back to the house for my "second breakfast," warmed up peach cobbler and coffee. I don't remember as much as I should from Thomas Mann' s "The Magic Mountain," but I was struck by the elaborate second breakfast and many other meals served to tuberculosis patients in an Alpine sanitorium before WWI. (Second breakfast, apparently, is common in parts of Europe.) I enjoyed my second breakfast sitting at my kitchen table and reading the newspaper.
I miss my job as a daily newspaper reporter -- you can't return to work until a year post-transplant -- but I don't miss rushing to work.
And, really, there's nothing like playing an opponent who tells you where to hit the ball and where to stand.