Saturday, August 25, 2012
The Golf Bug
This morning marks the end of our family vacation in Falmouth. When everyone wakes up, we’ll do that mad dash of cleaning out the fridge, divvying up the sunglasses and cell phones that have gathered in a pile on the kitchen counter, and stripping the sheets from the sandy beds. And so I find myself reflecting on the week, again trying to distract myself from those fears that creep up every morning when I remind myself that I have cancer.
In a week of simple, treasured pleasures, there is much upon which I could reflect. But I want to write about Thursday, the day that we played a round of golf. We had two groups out at Ballymeade – Brianne, Seamus, Brian, and I in one and my Dad, Sean, and Teddy in the other. Despite the less-than-two-foursomes, my Dad and Sean declared this round the first annual “Tara Beats Cancer” golf tournament and I believe Sean already has his eye on some oversized trophy.
Anyways, my Dad and my brother always dream big when it comes to family traditions, and for this one, I did what I always do – I smiled and let their spirits run wild. And I deemed Mom and Lauren our “team sponsors,” since they made our round possible by agreeing to watch Annabel for the day, a task that requires much more energy than the golf itself.
I love golf, although I can count on one hand (maybe even that Handy Manny hand) the number of times I have played a round since Teddy was born. I learned to play golf the summer before my senior year at Bowdoin when I heard that the college was starting a women’s golf team in the fall. Almost every Sunday that summer, my Dad, Brian, Sean, and I would play, usually down in Pembroke. I loved those early mornings we all spent together on the course, and I officially had the golf bug.
Now, 10 years and two kids later, getting in a full 18 holes with my family and our best friends was a huge treat, and I wanted to savor it. So I was especially frustrated with myself when I woke up that morning afraid to golf. As dumb as it sounds, I honestly didn’t know if I could play a whole round. I’m sick right? It was then that I realized one of the strangest things about my cancer – it was working its evil without me even feeling it (aside from the lump, of course, and a few other ailments that may or may not be related to my cancer). But the mind’s a powerful thing (especially one like mine that is somewhat prone to hypochondria) and since my diagnosis, I have basically convinced myself, largely subconsciously, that I actually feel sick. OK, I’ll cut myself some slack and attribute my recent nausea to worry, and some of my pain may even be cancer-related, but since my diagnosis, I know I have invented a lot of physical pain. And if I ever Googled “lymph nodes” (which I won’t do) I’m certain I would immediately feel pain in the parts of my body highlighted by whatever photo of the human body I landed upon.
Now that you know a bit of how my crazy mind works, you won’t be surprised that Thursday morning, I woke up thinking ridiculous thoughts like, What if I swing my club and a lymph node pops some cancer cells into my blood stream? Would that spread my cancer? Anyone who knows the first thing about cancer (or the human body) is probably cringing at my ignorance, and I (mostly) know how much of a nutcase I am. Sometimes I even make myself laugh at the ridiculous thoughts I conjure up, but my laugh distracts me more than it actually solves my issue. (Maybe I should email this entry to the psychiatrist at Dana Farber that I am seeing next week. Good luck to that poor man.)
Enough background on my madness…back to golf. I admit, I started the round with a bit of a cloud over my head. It’s that fine line I talked about earlier – loving something or someone so much that it can cause pain, and I was feeling that pain as we all teed off. Around the third hole, I checked my phone to see if I had any emergent texts from our sponsors. There were none, but there was a message from one of Brian’s former hockey player’s (and my former student’s) mom, a lovely woman whose Italian warmth could comfort you at any moment. Donna had written me a note about her brother who had battled back from Stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma. Like I always do when I read these incredible survivor stories, I cried, and my hope muscle grew.
The dark cloud over my head moved away, and something awesome happened – I played golf like I’d have played if I was cancer-free, or better yet, like I will play when I am cancer free (and silicone-filled). I had some great shots and some really crappy ones. I was bored putting like I always am (mainly because it drives Brian crazy), and I craved a sandwich by the 10th hole. I didn’t pay enough attention to where my ball flew, another of my tendencies to which Brian has adjusted (although by the way, I still don’t understand his technique of “picking a tree” near where my ball went because once we drive the cart up, the trees always look different). Our group smiled watching Teddy scramble around ahead of us, and we laughed at how small he looked out there with his goofy little visor. We made fun of Brianne’s enormous putter from Building 19 and we cheered when “the Mallet” helped her sink a few 20-footers.
It was the most precious and at the same time the most regular round of golf I have ever played. When we finished, I choked up at bit, mainly because I realized that there will many more of these rounds in my future. And I will look forward to, and cherish, every single one of them.