I miss the smell of the grass. The whiteness of the uniforms at the beginning of the games. The traditions. Booing the ump. Cheering the hits. Arching your body to help the ball make it over the fence on a long fly. Sharing in the joys and sorrows of your team with thousands of people around you. The hot dogs. The beer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about baseball. By now we should be figuring out how our teams are doing, whether the new players are really helping, and whether the ones we lost will matter. Not this year.
We had tickets for Spring Training in Phoenix this year. As it turned out, the first game fell on the day I ended up in surgery. Now I’m in the late innings of radiation, and I keep thinking of baseball.
The first week or two of radiation is like single A ball. The Hillsboro Hops. The Hickory Crawdads. The Lansing Lugnuts. No big deal. Hardly noticeable.
Then by the second or third week you’ve moved up to Triple A. Skin starts to burn inside and out, it starts getting painful, everything south of your eyes and north of your collarbone gets red and swollen. It becomes hard to eat, and some end up needing a feeding tube snaking out of their stomach. Taste changes. In my case everything tasted like it was basted in sea water.
Just when you think it can’t get worse, you get called up to the Majors, the Big Leagues, the Show. I got my notice last week. Like Crash Davis said in the movie Bull Durham, “everything is different when you get to the Show.” My surgeon looked in my mouth a couple of days ago and said “Wow, you’re on fire in there.” My radiologist said “Man, we’re really beating you up.”
I can no longer chew so I’m under orders to take in 3,000+ calories a day using liquids only. So far, I can still swallow, I haven’t lost weight, I walk a mile or two a day, and though some would argue the contrary, I haven’t lost my sense of humor. This will continue for the last two weeks of treatment, and incomprehensibly, for the two weeks thereafter.
Avid reader Dave – a renowned writer, and life-long friend – just wrote:
“You are so much on my heart since your last blog. The honesty and insight combined to just, well, sit me down. — to ponder and try from distance, and fail, to imagine any small fraction of your present circumstance.
“I’ve probably read your paragraph about “Hope” 20 times. [see Carcinoma Blues] I’ve written it in my journal with long handed scribble. I’d never felt the connection between “my plans”—whatever they may be— and their role in producing a sense of hope: an expectation of future good.
“Against all of that an old old verse hit me on the head. So, this week, I offer it to you, my friend.
“ ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
“Ancient wisdom from St. Paul to the Romans, and to me.
“And now from me to you.
“Love you, buddy. Dave”
“So true. When your world is on fire, hope is all you have. And love. Always love.”
Hope is why there is baseball. Your team may not have made it to the playoffs, but you hope they will do better this year. The hitter fanned on his last three trips to the plate, but there is always hope that he gets on base this time. Your team might be the worst in the league, but tonight, this night, there is at least a one in three chance they might eke out a win. And you are there because of your hope that they will.
A couple of weeks after radiation treatments end, down you go back to Triple A. The burns begin to fade, the pain begins to subside, swelling starts to get smaller. After a time, you’re back in Single A, and months later you’ll be transitioning to your (new) normal. New normal is not normal. Some things will last the rest of your life: dry mouth, crappy mucus, taste changes. Some people never get their taste back but most do. Mostly. The big unanswered question: will I ever be able to tell a 2 Buck Chuck from a Silver Oak? That’s a question for next season. I just hope I’ll be able enjoy a hot dog and a beer at the ballpark.
(And it is worth your time to watch following clip to its end)