Thriving in the First World
I live in Portlandia, weird and wonderful.
I’m a native, in fact … some of you might chuckle and think, “Aww, now we get it!” I live a straightforward life in my hometown, barely two miles from my childhood neighborhood.
Many other Portlanders are not nearly so fortunate. Portland has an outrageously visible and impactful homeless population, which is most often described as a crisis.
These durable and challenged folks withstand freezing temperatures, driving rains, brutal heat and a lack of access to basic life dignities, like cleanliness, bathrooms and healthcare. Most struggle with mental health problems and addiction.
I know the names of a few who live nearby, and I greet them when we meet. Sometimes I deliver coffee or leftover party food to them. But there’s one woman who resides barely a half a mile away whom I think about the most.
She’s in front of the co-op grocery, under a partial awning on a small patch of sidewalk, 365 days a year. She has two bags of belongings and one hat. Occasionally she sits in her place and screams and mutters; other times she’s quite immobile.
She doesn’t appear to sleep in that spot – she’s gone in the late hours – and the rest of the time, she’s just there.
If she had a problem with her ovaries, how would she know?
It’s been 20 months since my adventure with ovarian cancer began, and I got a new start on Thursday to take some more chemo. Nothing awful has happened, I assure you all! Some cells that didn’t get swept out the first time need to be shown the door.
My 2019 kicked off with bountiful good health and fitness, then disintegrated almost overnight into an onslaught by an intestinal protozoa upending every single day. Where it came from wasn’t my main concern; how damn long would it take to move on? became the question. Meanwhile I got a CT scan since my doc loves me and is really good at his job.
A tiny bunch of cells showed up, all in one place, and there’s no surgery necessary, just head back to chemo five or six times. Some women take two rounds of treatment to clear. Jim has a list of those that have, and both he and I, and dear David of course, want me added to that list!
I am not just living in the first world, I’m thriving here. I have loving support from so many, clean water, a very happy home, health insurance, a daily schedule I pick myself, access to the best doctors and treatment centers, nutritious food and warm little cats to share the sofa with me.
I hope my homeless neighbor could get the same, if she’s able to reach out for that one day. Meanwhile, I continue amazed and deeply grateful for all I have.
Handball in Zurich
There wasn't. Handball in Zurich. But our sport got us there, in a manner of speaking, in early November 1994. Following the World Championships in County Clare, Ireland, David and I added time in Europe, then found ourselves worn out (tournaments can be that way). Flights from our original Italian destination didn't work out, so we hopped a train to Switzerland for a couple of nights before returning to Portland, Oregon.
Zurich glowed with lights on glittering water, frosty air and glistening packages of outrageous chocolates in shop windows. The holidays were so near; I spun toward my husband on an old stone bridge as we gazed at the city. "Let's come back for Christmas!" I exclaimed.
Twenty-five years have passed, and the genesis of that dream, handball, remains an enormous part of our lives. Friendships from those distant years continue, players age but still compete and enjoy their comrades at the courts, and every three years a select group comes together for the World Championships.
In 1997, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I met the delightful, vivid Ranger Russell. He's an American whose home is in Belgium with his wife Joelle. Ranger cheerfully leads the Belgian Handball Team to world events and makes friends easily wherever he goes. I am blessed to be counted among his friends, and next week David and I embark upon our shimmering dream of a quarter-century ago. We'll join Ranger and Joelle in Brussels, deepening our long friendship while exploring Christmas markets, sharing meals and creating holiday memories.
As anyone reading this knows, handball is family. I hope you'll join us on this adventure!
There’ll be many flags on display beginning this week at the World Handball Championships in Minneapolis. National colors will fly, and be worn proudly, while some will represent loyalties of players and fans from specific counties, and even
Then there will be colors that have personal meaning, such as the Teal that’s now part of my daily look.
You see, every cancer has a color. Who knew? I didn’t, I Googled it and ended up at ChooseHope.com, one of many websites selling a rainbow of supportive accessories. Most people are aware of pink ribbons for breast cancer, and yellow wrist bands declaring it’s possible to live strong with any cancer. My particular journey with ovarian cancer is represented by teal. There’s even an acronym in the community: Treat Early And Live. Most ovarian cancers are found in the late stages and become very difficult to treat.
I’m getting more involved in service to others with cancer and cancer agencies as I approach the one-year anniversary of my surgery on September first. Linked below is the second feature I wrote for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (ovarian.org). Read carefully – you might even see the word “handball” in there! And comments from Portland’s Dr. Bob Gill, who is living with gioblastoma.
Hanging around the Championship courts in Minnesota, show your loyalties in every way and we’ll share a laugh. I’ll have on some teal, but I have a Team USA red, white and blue pedicure too.
READ MORE HERE: http://ovarian.org/component/content/article/33/501
Quite enough can happen in just one day. What about 3,175 of them? Almost nine years ago, Jay Maxwell, Tom Hussey and I were preparing for the start of the 2009 World Handball Championships at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Ore. I emphasize the start because it was a heck of a run-up. A bit like settlers crossing the Great Plains, watching and watching the Rocky Mountains never get any closer, suddenly we were “in the foothills” at last. Now. Oh, good heavens, now!
In the fall of 2004, not long after hosting a successful and popular national four-wall event, loyal and dedicated MAC handball folks gathered and thought, “Hey, maybe the next U.S. worlds would be doable.” I remember we drew up a pro/con grid that day, the kind I made when choosing between less elaborate competing choices, like buying designer earrings:
Pros: Pretty and desired.
Cons: Expensive and unnecessary?
Come to think of it, in autumn 2004, perhaps those lists resembled one another!
During that long run-up, complications took root and grew. Waterford Crystal, which provided exquisite signature trophies for the world championships beginning in County Clare in 1994, ceased production. I visited Ireland and met with a very kind former employee at the closed Waterford factory. Noel Power supplied many thousands of dollars of product from remaining stock so Portland 2009 didn’t have to break the tradition of presenting world-class crystal to champions.
The MAC leadership changed too. Administrators who in 2004 and ’05 excitedly permitted and supported such a long horizon for a very involved event were gone from the club. Some plans became more complex under new club direction.
Additionally, by 2009, many economies had experienced enormous downturns. Global issues impacted daily activities. Yet our committee of 27 chairmen had held the grand vision and love of the event and each other for years. We just kept working.
“I thought it was a fabulous experience,” Maxwell said recently. “I still think it’s probably the best worlds that’s ever been put on.”
A breathtaking moment occurred on a summer Saturday close to the entry deadline. A committee member logged on to the website and saw entries, which had barely been trickling through the system, beginning to pour in. We called and emailed each other in disbelief throughout the day: “Are you seeing this?” “It can’t be real, right?” “Is it a computer error?”
I suppose all of us realized, just then, that we had indeed been holding our collective breath. Ultimately, our efforts created a world championships that welcomed 993 players from 10 countries for 12 days.
“The success was attributable to a fantastic facility and an amazing team of volunteers,” Hussey says today.
Now all the moving parts of hosting the worlds are back in our country, with the Minneapolis tournament’s needs expanded again by the growth of one very important aspect. One-wall handball changes dramatically each time the event is staged.
In 1994 the cheerful and persistent Irish one-wall organizer, Tom O’Connor, called it “the funny games,” and just a wee number of players arrived in County Clare from countries like Finland. A few Eton fives specialists appeared from England with peculiar gloves and strange rules and customs but no shortage of cheer.
O’Connor can be proud of that start. By 1997 the Winnipeg worlds committee built two side-by-side outdoor courts for the tournament. Mayor Susan Ann Thompson and host chair Bob Pruden produced a grand opening media event, and the walls were emblazoned with the spectacular and creative 1997 logo, my personal favorite of all time. Later years placed courts inside hockey rinks and gymnasiums, and the construction of multiple courts by Dublin in 2012 was the most visible and central setting for one-wall ever attempted.
Anyhow, nine years can make a hell of a difference indeed. I am so glad I’m not in the center! I’ve got other stuff going on, as many of my handball family are aware. Unlike October 2009 (and for years ahead of it), when I ate, slept, wept, sweated and dreamt handball, since September 2017 I’ve had the luxury to put all my energy into well-being and recovery from surgery and chemo for ovarian cancer. I’ve moved into survivorship and am evaluating what the journey has meant and will mean throughout my long life, including the unknowns.
But we all have unknowns. This may seem like a grim example, but when I was in treatment I read that a woman who survived the Las Vegas massacre was killed by a drunken driver a month later. Her story gives me a certain strength. I delight in each day because I’ve got a boatload to do, and I’m ready to devote my energy, passion and charisma to new things.
As you read this, handballers from every section of our sport will be in Minneapolis cheering friends, family and our U.S. dream team … and I’m not just talking about our great players in one-wall, four-wall and wallball. I’m talking about Steve Johnson and his crew of sponsors, administrators, facility directors, loved ones and everyone making this come together for us.
You can cheer at the courts and wave flags and have fun … and please, pat every single one of the hosts on the back as you go by. They’ve earned it!
What time is it? I’m journaling with morning coffee so … for Joe Santilli in Australia, it’s the wee hours of morning. Tomorrow.
Oh, sweet Joe. At the 2015 World Handball Championships, he gave me a pen, knowing I love writing. When using it, I think about Joe, Donna, and their sons. I hope we’ll all meet up in Minnesota.
I know many players who show up at the World Championships with a few simple gifts for friends and friends-to-be. Some are based on long knowledge of the recipient, like my pen; others seem cannily intuitive. At my first World Championships, in Phoenix 1991, a Japanese woman player, Kumiko, presented me with a tiny ceramic white kitty sleeping in a ball. I can’t remember who won our match, but I’ve still got the kitty.
As a host committee co-chair in 2009, I was showered with magnificent presents, among them a handsome lacquered box from the Japanese team. Irish friends and administrators brought me a number of lovely gifts, including a buttery-soft violet wool scarf from County Wicklow.
Globes were a theme that year. Bill Kelly, who’s shared desks, dinners, laughs and lamentations with me over many years, gave me an incredible globe which spins with light. It rests on an engraved pedestal commemorating the tournament.
Another globe came my way from Down Under that year, this one a delicate Swarovski crystal orb from Vic DiLuzio.
Ranger Russell seems determined to ensure that I have plenty of his adopted country’s national gear. I can now cheer for him in a shirt (2009) and snazzy ball cap (2015) in Belgium’s bold heraldic colors of red, black and yellow, both items embroidered with my name
Luxurious customized gifts are not necessary, of course. But bringing along a few goodies is fun and meaningful, often many years after the tournament.
Some “gifts” can be shared more than exchanged. I pick up a few picture postcards of my hometown – and Portland, not lacking anything for scenery, has a lot choose from – to show new tournament friends where I hail from. Another way to create special memories is recycling gear from bursting drawers and closets. Handball t-shirts get exchanged formally at some events and informally at others, and it’s fun to wear the rare ones back at the hometown courts.
Many souvenirs are easily tucked in luggage, airport security friendly, and not bulky for new friends to carry home. I can pick up inexpensive Oregon-themed buttons, magnets, keyrings, luggage tags and bookmarks nearly everywhere. In addition, some products are both portable and boldly local: Oregon Rain lip balms are going in my bag, and a few lightweight wooden Christmas ornaments, from Made in Oregon stores.
Journaling with Joe’s gift reminds me that, as I’m preparing for my 10th World Handball Championships, it’s time to pack more than clothes and cosmetics. In Minneapolis, I’ll be ready to present and receive small tokens of enduring friendships with my extended handball family. Travel safely, and see you there!