5 years ago, my good friend Carolina (named altered to protect no one in particular) told me she had always wanted to go to Jackie Robinson Day on April 15th and see all the players wearing #42. And so we agreed: next chance we have, we’re going to that game.
It was 2018 and as luck would have it the A’s were on the road April 15th up in Seattle, and so our plan would have to wait. In 2019 the A’s had a day off on April 15th, but 2020 was most definitely going to be “our year”.
Except for the small glitch of a global pandemic and no baseball at all until late July — and even then you had to be a cardboard cutoff in order to get a seat. Then came 2021 and the A’s were home on April 15th, but neither Carolina nor I were really going to events yet in April. So it stayed on our “bucket list” for the next time the A’s were home on April 15th...
The A’s would be on the road April 15th, 2022 but it didn’t really matter. Late in 2021 came a phone call from Carolina, a healthy and vibrant woman, a non smoker and a dancer for most of her adult life. Somehow she had stage 4 lung cancer. Her doctors looked at comparable data and said median life expectancy was 14 months.
Which meant her life expectancy, give or take, was until right around yesterday. Amidst the anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance, and tears, all I could say was, “We ARE still going to Jackie Robinson Day in 2023, right?” To her credit, she said “Yes.”
Perhaps it was pipe dream, but in early 2022 Carolina began a course not of chemotherapy, but rather a newly developed immunotherapy that worked wonders until it didn’t. With tumors in her lungs suddenly measuring 5 cm in diameter, the rest of 2022 featured chemotherapy that would, at best, batter Carolina’s body in the quest to keep the cancer at bay.
2022 also featured the dreaded “goodbye” trips to see distant relatives, to see the world, and not so much to ponder the rare game in which every player is introduced as “#42....” The calendar turned to 2023, with chemo every 3 weeks and a scan every 3 months. What a way to live, but it means at least you’re still living.
The A’s pitching so far this season has been “worst case scenario” but one could say that Carolina’s chemo so far this year has been “best case scenario”. The tumors shrunk from 5 cm to 1 cm and at last check have stayed there.
And so guess who showed up to Jackie Robinson Day on April 15th, 2023? Wearing, of course, #42?
Is there a moral to this story? I guess it’s that 14 months out you can plan a funeral if you want, but what you’re going to get is still a baseball game. And the final score may have been 3-2 Mets, but I think we’re going to call this one a win.