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Saving Second Base

“Nobody on the road. Nobody on the beach. I feel it in the air, the summer's out of reach. Empty lake, empty streets, the sun goes down alone. I'm driving by your house, though I know you're not home”

-Don Henley “The Boys Of Summer”

I love this song and I loved it for years before ever finding out it was not just about summer romance and summer’s end, but it was also a nod to baseball. THOSE boys of summer.

Tonight I’m listening to the sound of a ballgame on the TV down the hall. As the days have grown shorter and cooler my hair has been steadily growing longer. My boys are back in school. Life just a few weeks ago, loose and sand-filled, is now more structured and defined. I hate to say good-bye to the summer. I’m a summer girl, born in late July; I’m a Leo and a true lioness at that. Fiercely protective of my family, fanatical about my mane (oh, the irony), and very difficult to ignore. This summer’s ending is bittersweet for me; the end of this summer also means the end of my first year back as a cancer patient. I’m once again coming up on another first cancerversary.

So here’s the line-up; my 2012 diagnosis came out of left field smack in the middle of the baseball post-season series as I was going about my post-summer rituals. Hauling the beach chairs out from the back of the car and storing them in the garage, cleaning the bits of shells and sand from the bottom folds of my beach bags and moving the flip-flop collection from the mudroom to the back of the closet. I was just minding my own business, focusing on the changing leaves, the upcoming Asbury Park Zombie Walk, and finding my recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip bread, when my boobs totally dropped the ball.

I had already made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy in January, I had regretted my lumpectomy from my first first cancerversary, but it took me five years to find the right surgeons and the right procedure. Once I finally had them lined up I was in the planning stages. Part of that plan was going for a routine MRI. Once my initial treatment of chemo, radiation, and Herceptin, was completed in mid-2008, I would get checked twice a year. One mammogram and one MRI six months apart, each procedure followed by blood work and a quick check up at my oncologist’s office. It was part of what I call my ‘new normal.’ My breast surgeon, Dr. Camal, who would be doing the mastectomy part of the operation suggested that we use the scheduled MRI as a pre-operative test and ensuring that the films would be sent to her office for her records. So I went for my MRI and then went about the rest of my weekend. I had no idea that in just seventy-two hours I would once again find myself surrounded with those sporty, cancer-y baseball euphemisms. From, ‘let’s cover all the bases,’ to ‘you gotta step up to the plate,’ and ‘hit it out of the park.’

Understand this, I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. I’m fairly uncoordinated and a little clumsy. But, in my house full of men, sports are usually blaring from one end of the house or the other and I embrace that, I’ve always been the mom in the bleachers cheering the loudest (and mortifying my kids). I may not be an athlete but I’ve always enjoyed being surrounded by sports. Listening to the sounds of a baseball game always takes me back to being a kid again sitting in the cool, damp, basement workshop at my grandparents’ home watching my grandpa John fix, fiddle and tinker his way through retirement while listening to the radio broadcast of the Mets (losing) or the Yankees (winning), it was the 1970’s…the Reggie Jackson years. There was a comfort in that. To this day still, I would rather listen to a baseball game on the radio than watch it on TV. And as I listen to the sounds of tonight’s ballgame travelling down the hall I realized that the reason people use baseball metaphors is because baseball so often mirrors life.

You never know when life will throw you a curveball or how you’ll end up on the disabled list.

So, while you’re on the DL and hooked up to whatever steroid infused chemo cocktail your doc prescribes dream about “the boys of summer.” The ones waiting at home who love you unconditionally, the ones from your past who helped you become the fierce, fly, fighter you are today, and the ones who are wearing the white coats - doling out the meds, doing the research and giving you your weapons in this battle.

And remember, in your fight you might decide to bunt and catch your opponent unprepared, you might swing and miss-and have to switch it up, but hopefully, you’ll be the one to knock it out of the park, go the distance, and save second base.

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© 2012 Jennifer Pellechio Lukowiak

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