Much like in sports, cancer patients have a ‘locker room’. It has many spaces of existence. There are physical spaces such as hospital rooms, oncology waiting rooms, medical specialist waiting rooms, surgical prep rooms, and treatment rooms. These physical spaces are where cancer patients often sit side by side and reflect on their life as a cancer patient. However, the real ‘cancer locker room’ resides in the hearts, souls, and minds of the patients who occupy the locker room—not in the physical spaces. This is true with sports locker rooms as well. The ‘real locker room’ is not the physical space that is occupied by the players. It is the space occupied by the singular mind, singular heart, and singular soul of the collective team of players.
Real world ‘achievement list’ thinking is absent in the ‘cancer locker room’—perhaps because everyone is placing great emphasis on the simple and essential things that sustain life. Getting to see another warm and brilliant sunshine. Getting to take another deep breath. Getting to smile, laugh, and cry knowing that all of those simple actions have profound meaning. In the ‘cancer locker room’, patients aren’t interested in big cars, big houses, or having a cancer story worse than everyone else in the room. They never demean, discourage, or diminish others. Deep inside they inherently know that all of these things will not get them to the next day. Helping each other breath, smile, laugh, and cry gets them to the next day. Helping another find hope in an impossible situation gets them to the next day. God is present in the ‘cancer locker room’ and life in this room is the way God wants it to be.
The author tells his story of life inside the ‘cancer locker room’ while battling stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Short stories of sports experiences and conversations with fellow cancer patients are used to enhance the walk the reader takes with the author from initial diagnosis through ongoing treatment to life as a cancer survivor. Reference is made to the deep meanings of Jimmy Valvano’s impactful 1993 ESPY award speech where we all learned that hope conquers fear in all situations—even impossible situations.