Sunday, July 18, 2010

God Bless The Goalie

CAUTION: This blog was written about two weeks ago the night before my last “butt kicking” chemo treatment. It’s not the most uplifting blog, but it does tell it like it is. Since then, I’ve switched over to a less virulent form of chemo and the side effects so far have been much, much less (Score!) By virtue of the fact that I’m posting a “caution” on this post, you can tell that I’m not that comfortable being “Not-So-Optimistic” Denine. But I want to try to be as honest as I can in this journey, for those whom it may help.

When I was young and single and living in New York about a million years ago, my brother got me interested in hockey. He took me to Madison Square Garden, the home of the New York Rangers, and sat me down in one of his two season-ticket holder seats in the red zone. We were close enough to feel like we were practically on the ice and in the game. I loved hockey. It was fast-paced, rough and tumble and in the Ron Duguay years that I remember, the players were very, very easy on the eyes.

One of the things I remember learning from my brother was the unique role of the goalie on the team. “Think about it,” he said. “When a projectile is speeding at your head at 100 mph, your first instinctive reaction is to get the hell away from it. But a goalie’s job is to throw his body in front of it. To attract it, and just take it in the chin.” Or the pads, or the grill, or any other place but in “the crease” or the net. I think this is what he was trying to say:

"Any discussion on hockey goaltenders must begin with the assumption that they are about three sandwiches shy of a picnic. I can prove this. From the moment Primitive Man first lurched erect, he and those who came after him survived on the principle that when something hard and potentially painful comes at you at great velocity, you get the hell out of its path. Goalkeepers throw themselves into its path. I rest my case."

I thought of this wee bit of hockey learning a lot this week because that’s what I’ve felt like: chemo goalie. Exactly a week ago, I had to sit in a leather recliner and take a friggin’ puck in the chest for 3 ½ hours. I dreaded going. I dreaded being there. I cried as the chemo went into me. And I tried to think of any excuse or escape that I could to just not have to go. It was agonizing. Like the goalie who is waiting to get hit, or the stupid teenager in the fifth remake of the horror movie where you know she’s going to end up strapped to the chainsaw table, it’s just so inevitable and awful.

I have to admit that I have a really bad habit of being optimistic, but this week was really a test for me. It still continues to be a test. I am mightily struggling with this journey right now. I am upset by how bad I feel and how much I’ve had to struggle just to get by in the past week. I hate feeling like this. And the truth is, as much as I am trying to take care of myself right now, there just is not enough Prozac in the world to make a difference. It is really a mean kind of endurance that you need to build up in order to survive. It is a take-no-prisoners and get-the-hell-out-of-the-way kind of survival.

In honor of my goaltending status and all the goalies that have gone before me, here are a few thoughts:

"There is no position in sport as noble as goaltending"
- Vladislav Tretiak, former great Russian goaltender

"We are the sort of people who make health insurance popular"
- Terry Sawchuk, former Red Wing goaltender

"In Biblical times, I stoned people to death. Now they are repaying me by hurling pucks at my head"
- Giles Gratton, former netminder

“Goaltender is a normal job. Sure. How would you like it if at your job, every time you made the slightest mistake a little red light went on over your head and 18,000 people stood up and screamed at you?"
- Jaques Plante, goalie

"Playing goal is like being shot at"
- Jaques Plante, yet again

I know that my chemo beatings are going to get easier from here on out, but I have NO IDEA how I am going to be able to do this until October 1st. Lately, I have been raging on a daily basis at the idea that I must continue this treatment for 12 more weeks. I must have transitioned from that stage of denial and bargaining to anger and maybe that’s a good thing. I think I will need to use this anger to get really pissed off and keep fighting as hard as I can. That’s about the best thing I can think of or the most positive way I can think of to funnel this anger into something constructive.

Post Script – This past week, I had the good fortune to have an honest talk (e.g., mini-nervous breakdown) with my wonderful doctor and the wonderful nurse who runs the cancer support group. I think this may be a great time to talk to other women going through this and I plan to attend the next support group. The other realization that came out of their great care and good listening skills was the word “commitment” and how much commitment it takes to go through this process and keep coming back for more. (I suppose that’s another thing that cancer patients have in common with goalies.) That stuck with me and it was comforting to think about this in the context of my commitment to my health – even when it clearly sucks to do that – and to just do my best to keep showing up and getting it done. Onward and upward...


  1. Another wonderful posting, Denine. Thank you for your honesty and your bravery. I am sure you've seen this piece from Barbara Ehrenreich, but just in case:
    I think you might appreciate what she's saying.

  2. Denine,I have been reading all your postings and have been so touched by your raw honesty and emotion, your courage, your passion for life and YOUR GIFT to share your journey in the most
    amazing writing format! WHO KNEW!? I remember you as this really
    beautiful, nice, athletic girl with an amazing sense of humor. As John and Vinnie put it........academically speaking, you were in different league, so I never knew about your unbelievable writing skills! Hey, but we do have SOMETHING in common! I love NYC and broadway shows too! And when you do get back here in NY for a visit.....please contact me! I would love to get an OLL '73 gang get-together somewhere along the Hudson......they're really building up the waterfront here! Hang in are NOT alone! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.........and looking forward to "THE FINISH LINE" in October!

  3. Ann- thank you so much! I am really touched by your note...and i would LOVE to see you guys when I'm in town. You have each in your own way, gotten me thru this...Drinks on me!

    That would be SO great! Hey! Po'k is only 2 hrs away. Count me in!