Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

Verna met with her oncologist yesterday. One of the things the doctor said was she hopes that Verna will be able to tolerate her chemotherapy, due to start in mid-November, for several years. The oral medication, Xeloda, is designed to keep the cancer from spreading out of Verna’s bones and into major organs.

I figured I should share some of what we learned at the oncologist’s with Miguel. He is 11 and knows that Verna’s breast cancer has metastasized to her bones. A few questions rumbled through my mind as I pondered how to broach the subject with Miguel: do I tell him before school and risk ruining his day? Before bed and cause him nightmares? During the later afternoon while we are tossing a baseball or football or playing Nerf basketball in his bedroom?

We’ve told him all along, “The doctors and nurses are going to do whatever they can to help Mommy get better. If that situation changes, we will let you know.” So I didn’t see anything wrong with sharing some of the information we got from Dr. Greyz yesterday morning in her office.

“Miguel, what does the offensive line in football do?” I asked him this morning as we drove to school. His carpool buddy was home sick, so it was just father and son at 7:45 on a chilly Wednesday morning.

“They block,” he said, somewhat confused by my question.

“Right. They’re supposed to stop the defensive linemen and other defenders from breaking through and getting to the quarterback,” I explained.

He was still confused.

I continued, “That’s how the doctors hope that Mommy’s chemo pills will work. The chemo will prevent her cancer from leaving her bones and going to other parts of her body.”

He was quiet for a moment. When he spoke he said, “Can I play football?”

I am reading Real Boys by William Pollack, a noted Harvard psychologist, who advises not to answer “We’ll see” or “Maybe” when a child requests something and you are unsure if you can deliver. Pollack favors total honesty with some good old fashioned explanations. So, if one of your children asks for something beyond the family’s current financial means, don’t just put them off by offering a “We’ll see” or a “Maybe later.” Be honest and say something like, “Maybe we will be able to afford that in 6 months, but right now…” Or, “What are some ways you could earn extra money to help pay for it?”

Pollack’s advice ran through my mind as I formed an answer to Miguel. I was also close to laughing because after I’d explained about Verna’s chemo, Miguel’s first response was about playing football.

“Mommy and I are not that happy about you playing football,” I said. Miguel knows we are worried about potentially serious injuries he could incur.

“But I am going to need the practice if I’m going to play for the Oregon Ducks,” he said. Miguel has been a devout Oregon Ducks fan ever since we spent time in Oregon in 2002, en route to Vancouver, and later for a week in 2006.

“What about playing baseball or basketball for the Ducks?” I responded.

“What’s wrong with football?” he said. “And I’m so good at it.”

The conversation kind of ended right there. Even though Miguel is a skinny, built for non-contact kind of guy, he wants to race down the football field and catch the winning TD. Verna and I, on the other hand, have visions of paralysis and severe head trauma.

But he does love playing football. I’ve been throwing deep bombs and short distance almost precision passes to him for several years. He dons a football helmet, mouth guard, and gloves and we practice on the field in our park or the street near behind our home. Lately, we’ve been doing punt returns, where I loft the ball high above him, which he retrieves and then tries to barrel past me for a ‘touchdown’.

Until Sunday. That is when he swept past me again with ease and I fell to the ground and nearly tore ligaments in my knee or severely bruised the bone.

So I told Verna about our conversation, and she said, “Are there still youth games going on? Maybe we could take him to one.”

Miguel has a friend who is smaller than he is and plays Pop Warner football, so our ‘you’re going to get your less than sturdy gridiron butt knocked around way too much’ argument doesn’t wash with Miguel because of his buddy.

I know that Verna is hoping Miguel will see a game up close and personal and immediately shun any present and future connection to organized football because of its real and inherent dangers. We also know that is highly unlikely given that he is a preteen and sees the game as a thrilling adventure.

So the next time he asks to play football we may have to bribe him out of it or resort to the time-tested response of “Maybe. We’ll see.”

1 comment:

  1. Love the blog!

    Miguel isn't going to get hurt playing football in Marin! The kids are sooooo soft up there!