The game must go on!
I wrote this piece two years ago when I first learned of my mother's breast cancer diagnosis. It was featured on the NFL Films blog where I received a heartwarming response. I want to share it with all of you today, as it corresponds with this week's theme. For those of you who might be wondering about my mother's current condition, I am happy to say, she is cancer free!
A few months ago, this photo came across my desk at NFL Films. It was intended to be the subject of an upcoming episode of NFL Films Presents. Over the years, the image has shaped several meanings for those immersed in the football world. When asked what the photo means to New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, he simply stated, “The game must go on.” Chip Kelly, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, responded, “3rd and 1.”
When I look at this picture, I see beyond the realm of football. I see 5,000 people choosing to focus on something they love rather than something tragic.
Two weeks ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. When the doctor called with the results, my mother was vacationing in Italy. In her absence, he revealed the information to my sister. Not wanting to spoil her trip, we decided to keep the news to ourselves until she returned.
For more than a week, I tormented myself over how I was going to tell my mother she has breast cancer. I struggled to find words of encouragement and prepared answers to questions I knew she would ask. I spent countless hours researching the disease and the type of treatment she may or may not have to endure. In my state of panic, I ordered her the most expensive juicer I could find. I created a clean eating plan, spent a mortgage payment on organic food, and made my husband swap out his deodorant for an all-natural crystal rock.
I repeatedly anticipated my mother’s frightened reaction, the tears; her distress. I was focused on the worst-case scenario. I was focused on tragedy.
I soon realized I was doing my mother a major disservice by falling apart at a time when she would need me the most. So, I called on the professionals: a lineup of self-help podcasts. After finding a few helpful resources, I was able to pull myself together. I surrendered to the fact that I simply cannot predict the future. Regardless of my efforts, the effect of this disease remains unknown; and my mother’s reaction – unforeseeable.
Rather than worry about the future, I stayed in the moment; only concentrating on the joy currently in my life. Much like the crowd in the photograph, I chose to ignore the fire and focus on the game. When the fear of my mother’s condition popped into my thoughts, I reminded myself that at this very moment she is alive. She is in Italy. In fact, she is probably eating some of the best food on the planet. Staying in the moment and focusing on the present was a tremendous comfort.
When my mother returned from her trip, my sister and I sat her down to share the news. She listened carefully, only interrupting to ask reasonable questions. When we finished talking, she asked, “Is that it?” “Yes mom, we told you everything we know.” I replied. My mother paused for a moment, then stood up and wrapped her arms around us. Her response was, “I think I’m gonna beat this thing!” She didn’t say it, she cheered it. I stood there completely relieved and downright shocked.
My mother refused to acknowledge the negative. She saw the love around her and felt grateful for the life she has. Moments later, she popped open a bottle of champagne. We toasted to life and to beating cancer. It was then the words of Tom Coughlin came to mind, “The game must go on!”