I've had death on my brain for some time now.
Back up about a year. One of my softball players, a woman of 28, was diagnosed with colon cancer. No one deserves such a diagnosis, to be sure: but you know how it is: some people you meet in life are somehow extra special. This woman is one of those extra special people. She radiates enthusiasm and lust for life. She's full of energy, pretty and flirtatious, loving to her teammates and friends, and just a joy to be around. Every time I see her I feel a sense of joy. She makes me smile.
They removed a good two feet or so of her colon, but found metastatis in her liver. After two rounds of chemo, they removed a third of her liver. This was good news—they might have had to remove up to 7/8ths, the most you can remove and still have some liver function. But then there were cancer cells in her lymphnodes. Another round of chemotherapy.
Then more good news. Blood tests were very positive. Then more bad news. Metastastis in the liver again.
More chemotherapy—but she's still playing in games this season, with more elan than the others, and with physical skill and strength, and still radiating with life and love and friendship.
I admire her greatly.
But I wouldn't trade places with her. Oh, I'd give her blood or one of my organs, maybe even a leg or an eye, so she could live. But I wouldn't want to be in her place.
I know that in some ways her closeness to death is an illusion, and I've tried to tell her this to give her hope. People drop dead at the age of 20 (more on this later) with no previous signs of illness, or they die in a car accident or even kill themselves; while sometimes people with cancer are operated on, just for the doctors to discover that the cancer has disappeared. We NEVER know how close death is. Never. It's just a guess.
But the presence of cancer brings the closeness of death to your mind, and weighs heavily. It weighs heavily on me, and the cancer is not mine, and the life is not mine. And while in a certain sense I love all of my players, I love her especially (I love her as a woman, and not just as one of my players), and struggle with the idea that she herself is struggling for her life.
And yes, she was one of those sitting in the car when I was having my "oh I feel sorry for myself" session in Holland.
I am ashamed.
She is another of my 72 heroes.