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Childhood Cancer, The "New" Normal

Basketball Fever: How our hometown team made us feel like winners

The Supernormal emerges out of the New Normal After Cancer Treatment

 

I’ve become a huge fan of our local Fort Lewis College NCAA Division II men’s basketball team who are pulling off a record-breaking season of wins. While the adrenaline and suspense of cheering on my home team during a close game takes a small toll on me (it’s so stressful!), I find the benefits from watching the Skyhawk’s talent and team effort to be inspiring.

In the final seconds of our conference’s championship game last Saturday, FLC fell down by one point. After the Skyhawks led for most of the game, the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers overtook us. What followed in the remaining seven seconds was nothing short of a miracle. In what seemed like an impossible attempt to score during our last possession, junior FLC point guard Joshua Blaylock made a fearless run toward the basket through a thick defense, causing the other team to foul while trying to block him from scoring. He didn’t make the shot, but at the sound of the referee’s whistle, the packed stadium leapt to their feet, cheering with wild abandon: Blaylock now had the opportunity to score a game-winning two points from the free throw line.

The raving crowd fell silent as Blaylock stepped to the line, with all of the signature composure that he would normally have. It’s only a shot, I said to myself, as if trying to mentally telepathize some confidence to him. He didn’t need my help. He made the first shot, tying the game at 72. The crowd once again burst with unfettered excitement, and then stopped to watch him set up for the second shot. Blaylock is an outstanding player, and an excellent free throw shooter, scoring on over 80% of his free throws this season. But here in this moment, the stakes were high, as the fate of the entire championship rested on this one opportunity. We the fans held our collective breath. His teammates on the bench locked arms, and some of them turned their heads away, unable to watch. I myself almost couldn’t stand the pressure. He shoots. He scores. We have won the RMAC championship title!!!

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The Skyhawks bench was feeling the pressure while Blaylock was shooting those final free throws. Photo credit: Jerry McBride (originally published in the Durango Herald)

 

In the remaining 0.7 seconds of the game, the Orediggers rebounded the ball, and one of their best players hucked the ball toward their basket from half court. It bounced off the rim, but not before the final buzzer interrupted the attempt mid-air.

Every Skyhawk fan in the room is ecstatic and overcome with emotion. Players jump for joy and whole-heartedly embrace. Tears are shed in the stands behind the bench by this devoted fan. These boys have played their hearts out. They have won the last 15 games in a row. With only three regular season losses, they clinched the division title, and now they have won the championship as well.

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This victory photo was on the front page of the sports section in the Durango Herald. Photo credit: Jerry McBride.

Maybe I’m new to basketball. Or maybe I just like to be inspired by watching this team take advantage of every opportunity possible in order to win. It seemed highly unlikely that the Skyhawks could have rolled the dice in their favor in the final seconds of that game, but they did it.

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My victory photo was a little less professional, but how fun that I got to take it from the floor! Usually the team heads straight to the locker room after the game, but not this time– there was a celebration to be had!

As most of you know, I am a passionate person. I love being a fan of things that I love. My family first attended an FLC basketball game on New Year’s Day, on a whim, after I read about it in the paper that morning. I thought the event would be something unusual for us on a holiday where we didn’t have any plans. It comes as no surprise that I quickly became hooked on basketball. My new love for this sport and this team has brought new light into my life.

During Saturday’s game, I took pause to witness and feel several moments of deep gratitude for my family. All four of us attended, which is usually not the case. Jordan sat to my left, between Craig and I. My husband looked dashingly handsome, holding down a threshold of calm composure, which I was unable to do. Chloe sat directly in front of me and next to Jordan’s kindergarten teacher Lauren, who is also the coach’s wife. As I sat rubbing Chloe’s arms, my eyes on the game, it suddenly dawned on me that it was amazingly miraculous that the four of us were sitting there. My eyes watered under weight of what my four-member team has endured.

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The kids posing with senior forward Kody Salcido. He has some fun moves and is entertaining to watch score baskets from inside the paint.

One year ago we were in the thick of chemotherapy treatments, miles from home. I was with Chloe in Denver, day in and day out in hospital, while Craig and Jordan held down the family fort in Durango. Today, we have the privilege of cheering on this fantastic and talented team of young men as a family of four in our howetown. I cheer a little harder because I feel lucky to be here. I’m proud that my kids are engaged in the game and happy. Jordan is following the score, point by point. His constant questioning exhausts me, but I love that he’s interested.

If the new normal is us coping with reintegrating into life after a cancer diagnosis, then these moments of deeply felt gratitude, which I will define as the Super normal, are the result of that integration. We are reaping the benefits of having endured hardship, and having put work into our mental outlook, family dynamic, and life circumstances in the wake of cancer treatment. These super moments can best be defined as moments of grace, like little oases of joy cropping up out of the landscape of the new normal. Not that the new normal is that bleak; as a river runs through it, and it’s banks are lush and fertile. But there are some dry patches, and places where I feel lost. These moments of super normal are helping to define my way. They keep me in the game, so to speak.

During this championship basketball game, I felt connected to my family’s collective journey and had a profound sense of rightness, of exact perfection with our lives, right there in the stands. The Super normal is where otherwise ordinary moments seem extraordinary. I was caught off guard by it, having been so wrapped up in the timelessness of unabashedly cheering on my team.

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Joshua Blaylock was crowned tournament MVP at the end of the game.

I need to mention the team. The players themselves are an inspiration. Having been an athlete my whole life, I don’t think I participated in a single team sport, except for one season of tee-ball in the third grade. I have learned a little about basketball from watching this talented team. I have also learned a lot about life. Blaylock is an inspiration to me because of his incredible talent, composure, and unwavering fearlessness. As I watch, I love knowing the players by name and recognizing their strengths and playing styles. Lauren (Jordan’s teacher) told me how her husband, Coach Bob (who is the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference divisional coach of the year) is committed in his heart to each of his players. I feel that way, too, as if I’m an unknown yet all-important trumpeter from the sidelines, with 100% confidence in each player through every second of the game. Even if they hadn’t won, I would still enjoy watching them give their best effort (which the mark of a true fan!)

This team of Skyhawks has worked hard through the ups and downs of this season, and they have emerged as true champions. I can honestly say that I feel that my family has, too.

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Chloe got to hold the trophy! Here we are with superstars Cade Kloster (senior), Will Morse (junior) and Rasmus Bach (sophomore).

Good luck to the Skyhawks at Regionals, where they are ranked #2 going into this weekend’s tournament.

Dr. Stephanie is a chiropractor, writer, mom, and wife who lives and plays in Durango, Colorado. Her passion is empowering people to discover their truth and express optimum health.

1 Comments

  • Great article!
    So happy that you all could be present to cheer on this team. Sports are a great metaphor of life. So much hard work, time, sacrifice, ups, downs, chaos, synchronization…the list can go on and on. As you looked at your family of four watching so intensely, l pictured a relay of swimmers. Each specific to the relay, chosen for a stroke that they swim or for the speed that they offer. Each person on the relay is dependent on the other. When one is gone the relay doesn’t work. I am so thankful that your “team” your “relay” is together again, each offering what it is that makes your family work together beautifully. Love to you all, my Colorado family!

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