The Bus Ride

      Franklin Regional is only 25 minutes from Kiski Area.  The two districts actually border one and other and there are some instances where neighbors attend different schools.  There shouldn't have been any problem on that short bus trip.  But as the bus turned up School Road Ellen's cell phone rang.
      She recognized the number on the screen as that of her gastric doctor, Dr. Kitchler, and answered.  He asked her where she was, and she said on the school bus on the way to the game.  He said, maybe I should call you back later.  Ellen replied by saying "This can't be good news Doc, there is no sense in waiting and worrying, tell me."  Doctor Kitchler told her he had never had to tell a patient in this way, he said he was sorry, and then he uttered the words nobody ever wants to hear.  "You have cancer"
      As Ellen hung up the phone, she looked to her left.  Jaime was in the seat across the aisle, helping a student with math homework, and listening in to Ellen's phone conversation.  Jaime had received this kind of news on two previous occasions.  She did her best to give Ellen her support immediately without tipping the busload of teenagers of the terrible news she knew all to well.
      As the team stepped off the bus, Jaime and Ellen held the gym doors for them, both of them struggling to maintain their emotions.  Jaime told Ellen she would take care of the team so she could make all the necessary phone calls.  With the last player passing by they embraced, and Ellen headed towards a swing set positioned not far from the gym where she could be alone to sort it all out and make calls.  Her first would be to me.
      Game days, for me are usually exciting.  I spend most of the day watching the clock at work, anxious to get to the gym and help in any way I can.  Even though this was a bad year results wise, I still looked forward to one last chance to get that elusive win for 2009.  When Ellen called I assumed she forgot something she wanted me to bring, but I knew immediately that there was something very wrong.
      Bad news has a way of effecting us in a physical way.  I remember hearing the word CANCER, and suddenly the earth split and my ears roared.  Ellen was twenty five minutes away, but the distance seemed SO FAR.  I needed to get to her, now.  I had pulled up to our house as we finished talking.  I can't tell you even what we said, the roaring was so loud.  I know the plan was to get the kids together, and get to Franklin.  I had to put myself together first.  How could this be happening?
      Aly and Mason were getting ready when I came in the door.  We gathered in the dining room, and I said the word again, through sobbing, the unimaginable word, CANCER.  We all broke down and we all cried and hugged.  Again the noise.  WHAT IS THAT NOISE?   Aly was the strongest among us.  She dried her tears quickly and assured Mason and I of her mothers strength.  Mason was devastated, I don't remember him speaking much the rest of the night.  I told them we had to go now to be with her.
      So we made our way to Franklin, and the twenty five minute drive seemed like it took hours.  We parked and found Ellen still on the swing set.  We hugged and cried and held each other.  I know many people must have passed by us, but I was unaware of anything that was happening outside this tightly gathered emotional family.  I just needed to tell this woman how much I loved her, and that we would go anywhere and do anything to get her through this.  I was a mess, but I suggested I could go into the gym, gather her things and tell Jaime we were heading home.  Then Ellen said the most incredible thing...
"I got on that bus to coach those kids, I'm going to go in there and do that."  I was astounded, but I said "OK then, let's go."
      I don't know how much the team had figured out, but they had to know something was wrong.  Jaime had gathered up Ellen's book bag, had the kids get the water bottles and balls, and organized the warm-up.
They had already started the JV match, so I took up a spot on the end of the bench, hoping to stay out of eyesight and collect my thoughts.  Ellen marched right to her seat, clapped a few times and said "Let's Go", more to clear her own cobwebs and get herself in a good state of mind.  Imagine that, for a moment.  It may have been the most courageous thing I had ever witnessed.  This woman, my wife, had just received the worst news of her life, and she was going about her business, doing what she had come to do.
      When I saw Jaime, we locked eyes, and I sobbed the words "Oh my God".  She hugged me so tight and said so powerfully, "We are going to be alright, this is going to be alright."  I will never forget the way she said those words.  I said "Jaime, we're going to need you" and she said, without hesitation, "I know."   Jaime was ready to do her part.
      When it came time to play the varsity match, a young lady from Franklin sang the National Anthem.  I was again at the end of the bench, trying to avoid being noticed.  I cried so hard my shoulders shook.  The thought that we may never get to do this again was overpowering.  Is this really how this is going to end?  Somewhere I had forgotten who the amazing woman is that I had married.  A woman who even on her worst day was determined to do the job she came to do.
      Kiski found a way to win that night.  The team boarded that same bus and made the trip home  At the time there was no way the team could know how uncertain the off season would be, and how much had changed that night.