The news that MLS Commissioner Don Garber has prostate cancer momentarily united the soccersphere in gestures of goodwill. For me, though, it also reminded me of another feeling from another time. If you've been there, you know how hard it can be.
I'll never forget that day back in May of 2009. I had a pain in my abdomen which just seemed to never go away; after two days, I decided to make an appointment with the doctor. When I went to the doctor the conversation was pretty short - I told him what was happening, and before I know it I was at the emergency room having an ultrasound done. My girlfriend (now wife) showed up a little after I arrived at the hospital and we waited anxiously for the test results, talking about what it could be and what the next steps would be for all different kinds of scenarios.
Finally the doctor said the words that sent shockwaves to my core: "Sir, you have cancer."
Apparently I had a tumor growing on one of my testicles, and it was large enough to cause the pain I'd been suffering from. The doctor had said that they would like to take a chest x-ray to see if the cancer had spread - that scared the life out of me, because I am a former smoker and we have always heard what smoking can do.
That fear came to nothing. Once the chest x-ray was done we learned that thankfully the cancer had not spread to the lungs. After consulting with an oncologist and a urologist, I underwent surgery on June 4, 2009. Everything went well; the urologist said that the cancer was confined to the testicular area; the oncologist said that chemo or radiation was not needed due to the type of tumor I had. I have been in remission since then. If I wasn't for the support I received from family and friends, everything would have been a lot tougher to go through.
In the statement Garber released about his diagnosis, it sounds like he has good support through his family and friends, which is a great thing to have. It helped me when I feared for the worst between the time when I was initially diagnosed to shortly after surgery. It helped me because everything seemed to stand still and not matter: Work, family, friends, and everything else that I loved in my life seemed to not matter as much.
Even the Chicago Fire. In 2009, I was in my 11th year as a season ticket holder, but suddenly, after the diagnosis, going to games seemed to be low on my list of things I loved. It was just hard to focus on anything else but the cancer, the horrible possibilities, the chilling brush of mortality.
My first game back after the surgery was the first home game in July of that season. I don't remember much of what happened in the game or even who they played. What I do remember was showing up to tailgate with the supporters group I'm a member of and there were two other members there, Scott and Mike Barnard. We talked a little bit about what was going on with me - and then, after about 5 minutes, our conversation was focused on nothing but the game and the team. Others from our group showed up, like Julian Jaramillo, Tom Kanwischer, and Monte Householter. The conversation was the same.
This was what I had been looking for! (Don't get me wrong - I owe so much to my wife because she was a rock during all of this; I couldn't imagine getting through it without her.) There was no talk of cancer during our conversation except for the initial few minutes. I made my rounds before entering the stadium I ran into others like Steve Dubik, Tim and John Schultz, Ben Burton, Joel Biden and others. The conversation was along the lines they asked how I was and then it quickly transitioned into the game. They may not have known that that is what I needed at the time, but it didn't matter. I needed conversation that would take my mind away from what was going on.
This was great and it became almost like a weekend therapy with an extended, non-related family. It almost was peaceful in a sense to someone who had his entire life rocked and didn't know how the future would be. This is what these fellow supporters did for me and it was almost like family. Something that supporters did without even knowing. The little things that sometimes we take for granted could be things that help us the most.
As you fight the good fight, Commissioner Garber, I hope that you have a good support group around you from family and close friends. Like me, you may find support where you least expect it. For me, this game that we love to watch and play can actually be more than just a game. Even though at times I disagree with what Don Garber decides for this league, I and the other contributors here at Hot Time would like to wish him a speedy recovery and nothing but the best.
I hope the game can do for you what it did for me.