(Image from the Washington Post)

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova used to compete against each other for years, for world championships and all the top-level tennis titles I’ve ever heard of. I always admired them both, and never knew that they were fast friends. Go figure. 

Then they both battled, not each other, but cancer in the same timeframe.

“As a top-level athlete, you think you’re going to live to a hundred and that you can rehab it all,” Navratilova says. “And then you realize, ‘I can’t rehab this.’ So sharing that fear was easy — easier with her than anybody else.”


Reading their article brought tears to my eyes. (Re-reading some of my blogs makes me realize I must be a cryer. It happens often). 

I identified.  I’m between their ages, one year older than one and one year younger than the other. I’ve watched and admired them for decades. And reading about their struggles with cancer, both women with diagnoses the year after my dissection, I was smacked in the heart, so to speak. Martina talks in the article about when we’re athletes (and I was not even approaching the same universe as these two!), we do think we can overcome anything. We think a setback just means a bunch of rehab and hard work, and we’ll get back to “normal.” 

I am not alone in this. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me, after my aortic dissection, “So you’re back to normal now?” That question just throws me for too many loops to count. Normal? Never, but if you ask me that question in an offhand way, I know you don’t want a real answer, so I’ve fabricated an answer. “As normal as I’ll ever be.” And that will suffice. 

What I know is that my own normal has changed once again in my life. Inside, in my deep self, an aortic dissection–open-heart surgery survivor is part of how I define myself now. Gratefully. Not resentfully. Grateful to be here. No other broken bone, injury, or even my ruptured brain aneurysm  and brain surgery changed the way I think about myself quite this much. Maybe the broken knee, going from runner to cyclist did it, but this is yet again another new view of myself. But if you ask me if I’m back to normal, I know you don’t want to hear all that. 

I’m grateful for Chris and Martina talking about this, so it helps us lesser folks know that we are not alone. Can’t rehab this, but we certainly can live with it. Thanks for the inspiration, once again. 

Becky Avatar

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