Cancer Made Me Derby
Derby can be dangerous-it’s very physical, you fall, you get hurt, you are sore and bruised, and mentally it can be just as scary for a new skater like me. So what made me do it and what keeps me coming back? Well, it has a lot to do with the kids I work with in my ‘real’ life. You see, I’m a clinical social worker in the cancer clinic at a local children’s hospital, working with kids and families facing stem cell (bone marrow) transplant. Every day I meet kids of all ages who are facing life-threatening diseases; cancer, immune deficiencies, blood disorders. Without transplant, they will most definitely die, but even with transplant, they could still die, relapse, or develop other serious, chronic, or life-threatening, medical conditions. My job takes up a lot of my life and energy; I have to be mindful of the need to take care of myself. Derby is how I do that. I’ve known a lot of amazing children (many who are no longer living), and have walked with them as they navigate the journey to the end of life. It’s an amazing thing to bear witness to a death –there’s nothing more black and white, you’re here then gone, like the flip of a switch. It changes you, but not in the ways you might think. For me, it’s been a lesson on living in the present-genuinely, bravely, and honestly. I think derby fits right into that mindset, you have to go all-in, focus on the moment, and shift gears in a heartbeat.
Of course there are the lighter moments at work too, like being called in to tell a father he has to 1) wear pants, and 2) not lovingly caress the nurse’s hair as she cares for his son……you can’t beat a job that on any given day provides the opportunity to play Xbox as part of a ‘therapeutic intervention’, have a spontaneous nail painting party, or meet Marie Osmond. Come on, an Osmond???
I know, you’re thinking “OMG, how can you do that, it must be so hard,” and yes, at times it is. Really though, it is a unique privilege, and a job I love. I learn so much from each person I meet, and the biggest lesson boils down to this: you have to LIVE the life you have, because to do anything less is to dishonor all the kids who’ve died way too soon. For me, derby has been the outlet for all the emotion and stress of the job; so when all the new skater “what ifs” start to cloud my mind-‘what if I can’t do it,” “what if I get hurt,” “what if I look stupid,” I remind myself that having a healthy body and not using it to the fullest would be the biggest shame of all.