My right shoulder is communicating to me today in a surly, unspoken language. As best I can translate, it is saying, “you idiot, you didn’t stretch me enough before throwing the softball yesterday.”
So it goes. My right arm is tight. Plus, the nail on my right big toe is gone. Those are small sacrifices to make in exchange for playing softball in February, which I did yesterday in sun-drenched Irving Park.
A year ago at this time the ideas of hitting, fielding, or throwing a softball, or merely being outside, were as distant, for me, as setting foot on the moon.
I was in a hospital bed with lymph nodes that had ballooned to the point I could not swallow food. Hours earlier, I felt on the verge of passing out in a throat specialist’s office. This facilitated an emergency room visit and then a prolonged hospital stay.
Doctors told me I might have lymphoma. It did not hit me until I called my parents. I wept before finally hanging up. I had no words.
Three days later, a doctor diagnosed me with mono — serious, but not cancer — and alerted me I was free to leave the hospital, which I did in a wheelchair.
A softball game, I realize, is not the most important thing in the world. None of us cured cancer or world hunger yesterday. One or two of us might have exited the field slightly buzzed. Not me, though.
I left the field grateful. My team won. I played well. But, above all, I had participated. I felt healthy and able. That was the day’s greatest victory.