It was early on a Thursday morning at the St. Augustine YMCA. We, the three early arrivals, had set up the portable nets in the gym and were warming up to play pickleball. We were dinking the ball back and forth, forth and back. I like this part of the game. Many players seem to want to rush this step and get on with it. Not me. First, it helps me focus, set my sights on the ball. For some, never taking one’s eye off the ball comes naturally. For me, it is a constant challenge and the longer I warm up, the fewer times I swing and miss the whole dang thing.
Another thing I like about the warm-up is that it allows for chit chat. An opportunity to introduce oneself. Make a personal connection with other players. This is especially important to me because I’m here by myself and I don’t know anyone. I can tell pretty quickly when a group is open to a chat and when they are not.
A Friendly Group of Pickleballers
On this particular day last week, I lucked out. They were friendly. Actually interested in conversation. As the three of us were lightly tapping the ball to each other, it came out that we were all breast cancer survivors.
They both were diagnosed and treated within the last year. One was still dealing with the after effects.
Our fourth arrived and walked up to the net where we had stopped all pretense of warming up, having pivoted to sharing our stories of battle. I turned to her and said, “We just found out we are all breast cancer survivors.
She put an open hand on her chest and said, “So am I!” She answered the typical first question among survivors: six years out.
What were the chances? On a random Thursday, at a YMCA 900+ miles from my home, four women would step on to the pickleball court. Four survivors. Four members of a sisterhood.
I don’t often think about being a breast cancer survivor. I no longer get sweaty palms over a mammogram. It’s not that I lack a sense of gratitude, but I live with the peace of assumed health.
For me, fourteen years ago when I was desperate to move on from the thing that had consumed my energy for almost a year, meeting an active, healthy person who had done the treatment and gone on to live a good life, inspired me. My hope is that my story in some way inspired them. They certainly inspired me. Out there playing pickleball when they’re still dealing with pulling gauze out of their chest. Now that’s impressive!
I’ve heard it said that there are no coincidences. I have to wonder, if maybe, just maybe, the four of us matching up on the court at the St. Augustine YMCA wasn’t really a coincidence at all.