Thursday, July 14, 2005

How It All Started (Part I)

I get this question a lot, so I thought I'd try to tackle it in a series of blogs. It is a very long story that starts back in high least, when I look back now I can see that it started in high school. I'm going to do the best I can to explain what happened: how I found out that I had tumors on my liver and, more importantly, how I've seen God work through it all, even before I knew He was working.

When you finish this post, you are probably going to ask what in the world this has to do with tumors and how I see God was working, but I promise I will get to that. I think it is very important for everyone to see what a life-altering experience this was for me.

Part One: High School

You may not know this, but I was a very athletic kid. I played basketball for seven years, starting in 4th grade. When I got into 8th/9th grade, I was playing on multiple teams, almost year-round. Basketball was my life. I lived and breathed it. Even today, my husband can't understand this, but anyone who has ever loved a sport will. I constantly had a ball in my hand. I played on teams. I played by myself in my driveway. I played with all the rough and rowdy boys all summer long, on rocks and in flip-flops a lot of times (and I kicked their butts!).

Playing against my peers was rough. I was young. A year or more younger than the girls who were in my class. I was little, too. I didn't start going through puberty until I was in 9th grade, when my classmates had done this a year or two before me. When I translate this to basketball language, it means that they were heavier, and much more able to develop muscles than me. They were much, much stronger than I possibly could have been. My body wouldn't allow it. I could easily keep up with them on the court as far as running is concerned, but I was beat up and knocked around when it came to chasing after lose balls or going after the rebound, but I didn't care. I wasn't bad by any means. I was actually pretty good. I just never started in high school because all of the other girls were so much stronger than me. I had spunk, though. Knock me down, I jump right back up and I'm in your face again. I don't care how much it hurt. I know I just got the charge on a girl that's 30+ pounds heavier than me. That's what I do. It felt great to be the little girl that wasn't afraid of those bigger girls, especially when I came out on top. You gonna hold that ball out in front of me? Fine. But I'm going to jerk it out of your hands. At least, I'm going to try really hard. I'm going to get the jump ball. And you're gonna learn not to do that again. I think the other team underestimated me a lot, and I knew how to take advantage of that.

We played rough and rowdy, too. A lot of "organized street ball" if there is such a thing. We did drills where our coach would throw the ball down the court and we'd all have to run and wrestle each other until one of us came out with it. It hurt. I was always bruised after those drills, but they were crazy fun.

Our team was incredibly talented. We were probably the best JV team in the state. A lot of our girls moved up to play Varsity, but they didn't move me up. I wish they would have, but I was thrilled sitting on the sidelines watching these girls kick butt. I was truly, truly happy to just wear the jersey. I was proud to be a part of something bigger than myself. I was happy to work my butt off playing against the bigger girls because I knew that I had a part in making them better players, and they were doing the same for me.

The major problem that I had was during conditioning. I had problems with my growth plates in my knees and I could not run long-distances. The pain would become unbearable. My coaches were tough. Mile runs were nothing. We ran cross-country matches to condition, and we won the meets. Running several miles is what they had us do, and it was literal hell for me. I couldn't do it, but I still tried really hard. It didn't matter, though. I could still keep up on the courts. That was all I cared about.

I decided (so that I could condition) to try to do something about my knee pain. I went to a sports medicine place and they made insoles to go into my running shoes. I wore them every day to try to get used to them. When conditioning time came around, one of our first runs was a 2.4 mile run down a long country road. We would run down to the end of the road (1.2 miles), run up a massive hill where a coach would be waiting with our half-way times, turn around, and run back another 1.2 miles. I was in a lot of pain my first half of the run. It wasn't my knees this time, it was my feet. I got to the top of the hill and stopped. I had to take out my insoles. In the process, my coach noticed blood on my socks, so she made me take it off to show her what was wrong. I have a blister on the arch of my foot that was about 2 inches long that had already busted. But I didn't stop. I threw my insoles in her car, but my socks and shoes back on, and headed back the other way. I finshed last, but I finished.

My sophomore year season went pretty well. I didn't start, but I did get a lot of playing time. When team spirit got a little low, or our players were frustrated with one another, Coach would put me in to pump things up. I was really an intense player. But the end of the season came with an ultimatum: get serious, or don't come back. It's not that we weren't serious, we were. We were very, very serious about the game. What he meant was that we were going to have to make life sacrifices to play for him. We were going to have to miss out on some of the typical high school "fun." He wanted us to make a time to meet with the head coach to talk about what we were going to do to come back the next year to play varsity. He wanted to know how hard we were going to work over the summer. So, I went home and had a talk with my mom. I knew I was going to have to beef up a little. We had worked it out that I was going to join this gym-like place and go every day. I would work 3 days a week on weight training, and the other 2 on fundamental skills so I could stay sharp during our off-season.

The next day, I excitedly ran up to the head coach in the hall at school and told her my plans. She looked at me with a grave look and said, "It's not going to happen for you."

What? What do you mean 'it's not going to happen?' I work really hard, and I'm going to work even harder this summer to get up on par with the rest of the team. I'm willing to do that. I've already talked to my mom. She's going to take me back and forth to the gym all summer. It's all worked out. What do you mean, 'it's not going to happen?'

Beaver, (my last name), she said, It's not going to happen.

I'm in tears by this point. That's it? I'm done? Are you saying I can't play next year? Not even practice? I'm not expecting to start....I just want to play.......

I walked away in tears. I knew I couldn't go to class, so I went to the nurses office. I called my mom, but she couldn't come get me. I didn't go to class the rest of the day. I sat in the nurses office and just cried. I went home and I cried. I went to school the next day, walked straight to the nurses office, and cried. I cried for three straight days.

I didn't know what to do. Basketball was my life. Now, instead of going to practice, I would go home and play in my driveway, crying the entire time. I did this for weeks on end.

Our varsity team went to state that year. I went with a friend to watch the game. I'm sure I was great company. I cried the entire three hour trip up, and the three hour trip back. I just kept saying, I'm never even going to get the chance to sit on that bench.


At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heart wrenching story, Amanda. Why did coach leave you hanging like that?

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Andrea said...

What a story! You've got me holding my breath..waiting to see what happened next.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Tony Arnold said...

Amanda, I too lived, ate, slept basketball. My story is so similiar to yours. My school and coaches about killed me in not giving me chances when I worked harder, played more ball year-round, and on top of that was a straight-A, straight-laced student.

Integrity and heart just did not seem to matter at all, to anyone--at a C of C private school too!

We'll have to talk sometime soon.


At 11:27 AM, Blogger Amanda said...

I still, to this day, don't know why that coach did that to me. I wished terrible things on her and her unborn children. I secretly hoped that one day, when she had kids, that her child(ren) would have something they loved so much and put so much of themselves in it, and then someone would rip it away from them like she did to me.

I know! It's terrible! But I really did think my life was over.

I don't mean to keep you guys hanging, there is just no way I could write this whole story in one post.


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