When I was a teenager and young adult, I really took to bowling. It started in high school, when a gym teacher taught us how to bowl with the proper mechanics. I bowled every week with friends and was pretty decent at the sport. Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t great, not even close. But I had a knack for it — and even more important, a love for it.
As I got a bit older, I took bowling for granted. It was always there for me to do, but my bowling outings were much more sporadic. Still, I loved the sport, knowing I could bowl whenever I wanted to.
Then cancer shit all over me. And the last thing on my mind was bowling. Instead, I had to focus on the necessities: staying alive and, eventually, keeping lymphedema at bay. The cancer had been in my right breast, so lymph nodes were removed on my right side. I understood that my right arm had limits, which was unfortunate, since I’m very right-handed.
Shortly after chemotherapy and radiation treatments ended, I overused my right arm, simply by opening doors and repeatedly throwing my cat her ball. I had an alarming lymphedema flare-up. My hand swelled up beyond imagination. I was in pain, and I had physical therapy, learning techniques to help reduce the swelling and pain.
It wasn’t until I was invited to a bowling party that I realized I could no longer bowl. I declined.
After all, what good was going to a bowling party when all you could do was sit out on the sidelines? I just accepted it without any remorse. I don’t know why it didn’t bother me so much at the time. Maybe it was because I was so grateful to be alive, that I felt sacrificing bowling was a meager price to pay in the cancer world.
Nowadays, Arielle and her close friend occasionally have bowling playdates. The friend’s parents and I have become friends, and they know about my breast cancer history.
So I’ve taken Arielle bowling and watched the kids and the parents bowl, while I was an observer. I still had fun talking with the parents in between their bowling turns and helping Arielle, but deep down inside, I wanted to be participating.
Fast forward to yesterday, my daughter’s birthday. A few days before we discussed what she would like to do on her birthday. She wanted to go bowling with me. I told her I would go but only watch her bowl, but she insisted that she wanted me to bowl, too. She wanted us to bowl together. I nervously agreed, telling her I would bowl left-handed. (I’ve thought of bowling left-handed before, but I really can’t do much left-handed.)
So yesterday, I told the bowling alley personnel to keep the child bumpers up even for my turn. I didn’t want to see gutter ball after gutter ball from me. Yet what happened next was astounding. I bowled fairly well, considering I was using my left hand to bowl for the very first time and that I hadn’t bowled in a very long time. I would’ve gotten a couple of gutter balls, but despite my awkward stance and position before releasing the ball, I got two spares in the game. I even offered Arielle advice on how to improve her game.
I was thrilled. I never, ever anticipated that I could bowl left-handed. And in that sense, all these years, I sold myself short.
Arielle and I will be going bowling again in the near future. We can’t wait. She now has a mom who can bowl, and I have a lot of bowling catch-up to do.
Have you ever overcome what you once thought were your limitations?
Have you had lymphedema?
What do you do to reduce your lymphedema risk?
I would love to hear about your experiences.