Swing for the Cure

A tennis tournament with my friends to benefit a cause near and dear to my heart? Sign me up!

Our club had the first annual Swing for the Cure this weekend, and what a fine time it was. The weather was sunny & warm, the mood was festive, and the teams were all decked out in pink. There was lots of bling, including some super cute blinged out fingernails.

There were so many different combinations of pink tennis outfits — tie dye, hot pink, light pink, black with pink…it was quite the rosy scene.

It seems fitting to have a tennis tournament that raises money for breast cancer outreach because both tennis and cancer can be epic battles. Hand-to-hand combat is required at times in both. Yannick Noah said once “I have always considered tennis as a combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their racquets and their courage as their weapons.” Guess what? Cancer required combat, too, and I’ve strapped on the gladiator mentality more than once, with courage as my main weapon.

I hadn’t realized just how many parallels can be drawn between tennis and cancer until now. Both require stamina and strategy. Both can be seen as a battle. Neither ensures any guarantees — the best player doesn’t always win, and sometimes the player does all she can and does everything right but doesn’t clench victory. Billie Jean King said that tennis is “a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” Ever stepped into an infusion room of an oncology clinic? It’s serene with soft colors on the walls, nurses with soft-soled shoes, fluffy and warm blankets if you feel a chill, and it’s perfectly acceptable to close your eyes and doze off. Meanwhile, poison drips into your veins — literally — or an injection sends a powerful hormone into your muscles to circumvent the wiring in your system and shut down your ovaries. Violent action in an atmosphere of total tranquility.

Pete Sampras said “It’s one-on-one out there, man. There is no hiding. I can’t pass the ball.” Was he talking about tennis or cancer? Could be either one. Could go either way. It is definitely true of both. There have been few times that I felt like hiding along my cancer “journey” because I’m a “grit your teeth and get through it” kind of girl, but there’ve been plenty of times I wish I could pass the ball. Let someone else take over for a while.

My good friends at Fiat of Clear Lake were generous enough to sponsor the Swing for the Cure tournament this year. A very nice and much-appreciated gesture, for sure.

In addition to laying down some sponsorship cash, they also brought one of the special-edition Pink Ribbon Fiats out for everyone to see.

How cute is this car??

Fiat teamed up with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to come up with this cutie. Available in white or silver, the Pink Ribbon Fiat features a pink stripe and a pink ribbon on each side of the 250 special-edition cars, along with super-cool interior designs. I may need to get a set of these floor mats for my car.

The pink stitching around the leather seats is so fine! It’s not on every area of stitched leather, so it accents the interior so nicely. Any more pink and it would seem overdone.

The pink ribbon along the side stripe isn’t in-your-face loud, but conveys the message quite nicely.

“The Fiat 500 Pink Ribbon edition offers a unique and stylish way to express their support, help fund breast cancer research and ultimately drive change,” said Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America.

My partner Julie and I were ready to drive change, for sure. We posed for our team photo then headed onto the courts to beat up on breast cancer.

Fiat is donating $1,000 per vehicle purchased, with a minimum of $50,000 to the breast cancer foundation.

I’m so glad Fiat chose to partner with the BCRF. I’ve said my piece about my disappointment with that other breast cancer organization. Yes, that other organization has increased awareness, decreased stigma, and paved the way for lots of effective change, but the BCRF wants to take all that a step further:

“The mission of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is to achieve prevention and a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime by providing critical funding for innovative clinical and translational research at leading medical centers worldwide, and increasing public awareness about good breast health. Currently, over 90 cents of every dollar donated goes to breast cancer research and awareness programs.”

That’s good stuff.

Here’s more:

“The BCRF was founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder as an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding innovative clinical and translational research. In October 2011, BCRF will award $36.5 million to 186 scientists across the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and China. With exceptionally low administrative costs, BCRF continues to be one of the most efficient organizations in the country and is designated an “A+” charity by The American Institute of Philanthropy, the only cancer organization to achieve this.”

Great friends, a day of tennis, and a good cause — it doesn’t get any better than that.

Living my life

I’ve been quite busy the last few days living my life.

I’m going to say that again — living my life. Those are 3 beautiful little words to someone dealing with cancer. Past or present, once you’ve tangled with the beast, the idea of living, i.e., surviving, is sweet. The idea of living your life, even sweeter because it means that in some way, you are getting back a semblance of  the pre-cancer life.

It’s almost October, which brings a multitude of conflicting emotions and thoughts. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is confusing for me, and for many other cancerchicks. On one hand, I’m grateful to Komen for destigmatizing what once was a shameful disease. I’m thankful for the research and the advances that have been made, which allow women like me to deal with BC much more easily than my pink ribbon sisters before me. On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable with all the pinkwashing that occurs. At what point can we declare enough with the awareness? Is there really anyone who’s not aware that BC exists and rips people’s lives apart to the tune of 1.3 million worldwide every year? More on that later.

While I’m torn about the Komen issue, I decided last-minute to do the Race for the Cure, which is tomorrow. The Houston version of the race usually attracts nearly 40,000 people so it’s a big deal, literally. I’ll be among the sea of pink tomorrow morning, wishing that the organization putting on the race would focus more on research and metastatic disease and less on putting a pink ribbon on products from fried chicken to dog treats to toilet paper. I’ll proudly wear my hot pink SURVIVOR shirt, basking in the glow of having made it through the plethora of crap cancer threw at me, but I’ll also mourn those who didn’t make it through. 

But that’s tomorrow. Today I’m going to be kicking some butt on the tennis court. It’s the annual member-guest tournament at our club, and Christy and I plan to dominate. She’s a fierce competitor who wants to bring home the hardware. Me too, but I’m also happy to be living my life.

A triumphant return

If you missed the local news last night, you didn’t hear that Staci and I rocked the annual Witches’ Open, our club’s annual Halloween tennis tournament, yesterday.

I didn’t really think about the significance of it all because I was wrapped up in just getting there on time, but thanks to my bossy-pants partner and several others who’ve remarked upon this particular topic, I’ve now officially clued in.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t have time to think about the significance of all of this, because I might not have enjoyed it as much. I would have over-thought it and put a bunch of undue pressure on  myself and forgotten to savor the fact that I was there, upright & healthy and swinging my racquet. It seems like a long time ago that I went through everything I’ve been through, with the cancer and the surgery and the infection and blah blah blah. It seems like a long time ago but it really wasn’t.

It’s a good thing I was thinking more about the logistics: getting both kids off to school, having my costume ready, packing my tennis bag. If I had stopped at any point yesterday to think about the fact that just 2 months ago I was in the hospital, my mind might have been on something other than slamming that perfect volley at the net player’s feet. If I had remembered that 2 months ago, I was sporting a 5.5-cm-wide wound in my chest wall, I might have double-faulted every time I came up to serve. If I had pondered the fact that I had a raging infection, my passing shots may have lacked authority. If I had spent a moment recalling the 22 days I spent in the hospital this summer, that cross-court winner placed just inside the alley would have fizzled. If I wasn’t so captivated by the fun and spectacle of the event, I might have focused on the fact that everything that could have gone wrong after my surgery pretty much did, and that would have sent that lob sailing right over my opponents’ heads but just outside of  the baseline.

So it’s a good thing I didn’t think about it, any of it, until after the fact.

Now that I have thought about it, (and thanks, partner, for reminding me of the very short timeline), I’m pretty well overcome with emotions, from thankfulness for my current good health to gratitude to my tennis friends for their incredibly warm welcome back and patience with me as I reacquainted myself with the game. It sounds so cheesy when people say to appreciate each day, each moment. But it’s really true, especially after you have some crazy medical drama in your life. Life is short, and it is precious. And we never know from one day to the next what’s ahead. So make the most of it.