Friday, December 21, 2012

Pink Bulldogs

My whole family knows that I am terrible at surprises. I get so excited about a potential surprise that I always want to spoil the big secret. For instance, around this time of year, I beg to know my Christmas gifts and I am always giving others the opportunity for me to tell them their's. I've only been truly surprised or truly surprised someone else a handful of times in my life (I can't wait to write about Brianne and Seamus's surprise engagement party -- talk about shock). Months ago I wrote about my complete surprise at the binders that Rachel remade for me a few Christmases ago. Last night, Brian gave me a gift that sent me into a similar shocked, joyful, speechlessly grateful burst of ugly crying. He gave me a pink shirt.

I desperately wanted to write this post last night, but I couldn't. I had to wait until today so that I wouldn't spoil any surprises, which was so hard. So I wrote about basements instead, and that was fun too. But today, after 3pm, finally, I can post about my early Christmas gift.

I have been told that when I was first diagnosed in August, Brian's hockey captains called a meeting to talk about what they could do for Kristin and I. That news must have been pretty crazy to them -- two of their coaches' wives had breast cancer. Apparently they brainstormed ideas on something they could do to help and came up with the idea to "Pink Out the Rink." They chose Saturday December 22nd as the day that they would try to encourage the whole Canton crowd to wear pink. For months the JV and varsity players have been selling these t-shirts for fans to wear to the game (they have towels too).

Annabel at the yoga event.

Brian and I at the yoga event.

With the help of Scott Connolly, Brian's other assistant coach and one of our most generous friends, and the Gallahue/Rooney family and their We Beat Cancer foundation, the kids have been busy preparing for tomorrow night's game both in the rink and outside of it. 

A few months ago, the kids also decided that they wanted to play their game wearing pink jerseys instead of their regular white ones. Brianne's uncle has been amazing in printing the t-shirts and he said he could make pink jerseys for the players. All they needed was their coach's approval. 

I remember the night that Brianne asked Brian what he thought about the idea. He was hesitant. He thought it could be too much attention on pink; too much of a distraction. I wasn't sure if it was himself, Corey, or the kids he was worried about; maybe it was all of them. He didn't say much but it was clear that he didn't like the idea. I called him a breast cancer scrooge and we left it at that. Knowing that the kids would be disappointed, I tried to soften him up a few more times but he wouldn't budge. He didn't want pink jerseys. As a former head coach, Brianne told me she understood Brian's stance. I didn't get it, but I trusted them and let it go. 

Earlier this week Brian and I decided we would try to grab dinner together on Thursday night. Brianne and Seamus watched the kids and we headed out to one of our favorite local restaurants -- One Bistro. An hour or so before we left, Brian told me he was going to give me an early Christmas gift at dinner. I knew something was up because Brian never allows me to open anything early -- not even on Christmas Eve. I was totally stumped. I saw him go out to the garage with a piece of wrapping paper and since my Bluetooth thing in my car had been acting up, I figured maybe he fixed it or something. But it wasn't that. 

When we got to the restaurant, he grabbed a package from the trunk. It looked like Teddy wrapped it, which I loved, because I knew Brian had done it. I begged him to let me open it then and there but he made me wait until we were seated in the booth. Finally, he let me rip the paper off my early Christmas gift. 

It was a pink hockey jersey. Not a t-shirt, but the kind a player would wear in a game. I figured he got one for me and of course, I started to cry. Then he told me that they got them all for the kids, too. Then I started to bawl my eyes out. I was speechless. Shocked. And totally in love. People around us must have thought we were nuts, but I didn't care. 

It turns out that breast cancer scrooge only stuck around for a day or two. Then he decided that of course he wanted the kids to wear pink jerseys if they wanted to. So he, Scott, Brianne, and a few select people from the We Beat Cancer crew plotted against all of us. They arranged to buy the whole team the jerseys but they wanted to surprise them. From 2:30 to 3:00 today, Brian and his coaches (and Teddy) are watching game film in a room upstairs at the rink. While they do, Scott and Jeff Gallahue from We Beat Cancer are planning to hang the kids' jerseys in their lockers. When they come down to their 3:30 practice, their jerseys will be waiting for them. I doubt any of them will cry like babies like I did, but I'm guessing it will be a special moment for them. They deserve it. 

Tomorrow night, the kids will suit up in their pink jerseys to play a strong Mansfield team in front of a home crowd. Given that rinks are probably not the most sanitary of places, I have stayed away from them for the last two weeks but tomorrow night, I can't wait to return. 

In my Octobers post (linked HERE), I talked about what it meant to me to see athletes wear pink in honor of breast cancer awareness month. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it means the world to me. Because money raised for cancer research will, literally, save my life, Kristin's life, and the lives of millions of other women. That research led to the drugs that are killing my cancer, those that are unlocking the HER-2 protein to make sure my cancer never returns, and those that have created extra white blood cells so that I can attend tomorrow night's game with my kids.

Tomorrow night's pink t-shirts and game jerseys are something a little different though. Those pink t-shirts are saving lives in a whole other way, because modern medicine can only do so much. I believe that much of the battle against cancer, at least for me, is about mental strength, hope, and faith. Those t-shirts give people like me and Kristin the strength, hope, and faith that we need to fight. They tell us that we're not alone in that battle. They remind us that there's no way cancer is going to win. Because in order to win, cancer is going to have to beat a whole rink full of players and fans that have lined up to fight against it. And that's not going to happen. There's no way cancer can beat a rink full of Bulldogs. Especially when they're all wearing pink. 

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The boys after practice today.

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