February 2, 2014 in Opinion

Linda Lawrence Hunt: As in football, so it is in life

Linda Lawrence Hunt

I never understood why National Football League football captivates millions of fans.

I always disliked football. It started in high school when I was a song leader. Basketball was fast, warm, indoors and easy to understand, and as a little girl I had loved playing horse with my brother Larry. In contrast, football was slow, cold, outdoors come rain or sleet, and not easily comprehended.

It didn’t help that our boring high school history teacher primarily liked his job so he could coach. I loathed Friday classes, when he finally exuded some energy, only to talk the whole hour about the upcoming game.

At the University of Washington, I attended only three games in four years, even when the Huskies went to the Rose Bowl. I enjoyed learning to throw a spiral from one of our Associated Press All-American players, but that had more to do with romance than sport. As a professor for 20 years at Whitworth University, a liberal arts college with genuine enthusiasm for football, my attendance record improved to five games.

I have been grateful our grandchildren play soccer and that my husband enjoys a game without turning me into a TV widow.

But people change.

Now, I want to watch the Patriots (our daughter lives in Boston), the Broncos (especially after Peyton Manning’s restoration), the Seahawks (young small quarterbacks can defy the odds) or the Saints (cities surviving Katrina need encouragement).

After five compelling hours watching both recent playoff games, I began wondering why the game now fascinates me

The difference today? Two aggressive cancers. And surviving.

I am beginning to suspect it’s the parallels to recovering from cancer.

It’s not all or nothing. If you miss the touchdown, there’s chance for a field goal. Cancer was a death threat. Now, doctors encourage thinking about it as a chronic disease. With new breakthroughs, you might have a chance to live longer. Of course, field goals don’t always succeed, but they offer hope.

The game comprises manageable increments. A friend came over last Friday after finishing her first week of radiation treatments for Stage 3 melanoma. ”You’ve made a first down, so we need to celebrate.” Small steps deserve cheers. We clicked our wine glasses to a first week down!

It’s clearly team effort that leads to success. I remember first seeing the team effort at Fred Hutchinson’s state-of-the-art cancer center in Seattle. I wanted a second opinion on my second bout with aggressive breast cancer. I was assigned a team of experts, an oncologist, radiologist, and surgeon. Such teams are now common and patients become aware of their importance. In each struggle with cancer, I’ve included a naturopath for preventative approaches to augment debilitating treatments and added the strategies of good nutrition, exercise, certain supplements and meditation. I see this as the important defense against cancer. Good offense is never enough.

Passionate players recuperate from devastating injuries. Who doesn’t love seeing Peyton Manning’s stunning year after his firm commitment to rehab? True for players on every team. They demonstrate the rewards following daily commitment to healing. After surgery, radiation and the ravages from chemo, cancer survivors embrace models of determined healing and restoration. Life can be vibrant again!

The best players are astute students of the game and the human body.

The intelligent understanding of “the game” absorbs the finest NFL players, who study tapes, learn complex strategies and then, under pressure, make intuitive choices with poise. There’s an elegance of movement and strength and unsurprisingly, beyond the weight-training, some players have enhanced their talents through ballet and yoga. Their commitment to excellence is inspirational. At times, they even argue with their coaches, who listen and trust their judgment.

Cancer patients often need to study their options carefully and become agents in their own healing. During my second bout, it became evident that I had a chemo-resistant tumor. Surprisingly, two of the nation’s top cancer centers – Palo Alto’s Stanford Cancer Institute and Boston’s Dana Faber Cancer Institute – gave me opposing advice on further treatment. There are excellent resources on cancer treatments to read, and I found myself grateful for Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, a classic in the field. Such research can prove essential, especially as we seek to make our best choices. It’s still a gamble regardless.

Oh, and did I mention, I grew up in Seattle?

Linda Lawrence Hunt, author and teacher, is the author of the forthcoming book “Pilgrimage Through Loss” and for 21 years was a professor of English and director of the writing program at Whitworth University. She and her husband, Jim, live in Spokane.

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