Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27th: My own version of the 'Milan Miracle'

Remember this classic story of a man who gets a second chance in his life, and the resulting 'second half' of his life story is possibly one of the greatest tales in all of modern sport?

That's right, Gene Hackman starring in "Hoosiers", which is considered one of the greatest sports cinema flicks of all time. And to top it all off, it's based on the true story of the "Milan Miracle" - the 1954 Indiana State High School basketball championship where tiny Milan defeated Muncie Central in one of the greatest basketball games ever played. As a small town Ohio boy who grew up in a similar community (which had a couple of runs at the Ohio Championship and finally won - Go Scots!), I could relate to the emotions and passions that this movie so eloquently portrays. Even though this movie is now 23 years old - I get goosebumps every time I watch it.

Now, granted the movie takes some liberties with the original story (the coach in real life really didn't have a questionable past like Gene Hackman's character), but still the parallels to my recent experience trend together. You see, when I returned from Boston, just a day or two after learning my cancer was not only in my hip but up in my chest and possibly in my skull, it was a pretty down time - the lowest of my life. Yes, I kept an optimistic persona about me to friends, co-workers, and family, but I knew deep inside that I was forever changed, and there was a possibility my odds weren't going to be so good. I even spent some time crying - a lot. Looking at the possibility of my end was frightening, and angering - because I love life, and for it to end before I was ready to end it on my terms gave me the feeling that I was in the midst of a true "David vs. Goliath" Story.

Most of you know I married into an Evansville, Indiana family with some history of basketball - between my Father-in-law as a former HS player and HS coach, with his brothers playing at the HS level, as well as a brother-in-law who was a heck of a 3 point shooter when in HS, coupled with their universal love of Bobby Knight and all things IU - you get the picture. On top of that, during my attendance at the "Harvard of the Midwest" a.k.a. "Testicle Tech" (that's Ball State to the rest of you) my alma mater had some good teams which whipped me into a full appreciation of Indiana basketball fever. Also, as I mentioned above, my small town in Ohio was the Buckeye version of this hysteria - so basketball references and allegories run strong in these veins. So how does this tie this back to my cancer experience (this is a cancer blog, right?) In basketball terms, when I returned from Boston with my uncertain future I got pulled into the locker room at "halftime" of my life (37 years) and got kicked in the unmentionables by cancer - hard. So hard that there was a 43% (ish) possibility that my chemotherapy wouldn't work and I'd be looking at not making the second half starting team.

So, there I am, first week in June, traveling to Lutheran Hospital in Denver to get a PetScan to see the extent of my cancer and just how bad it was. All the tests in Boston were not 100 percent confirmed, as this was the one final step in the diagnosis journey which would let my team of oncologists in Denver know what to do next, and what the options were. I knew this was the big test, and was scared beyond your wildest dreams.

I go in, and get injected with some radioactive dye which will pulse through my systems and show exactly what areas were affected and cancerous. After the injection, they have me go to a small room and wait for an hour while the dye pulses through my body. The room is dark, soundproof, has a large comfy leather recliner with a warm blanket, and a big flat screen TV with a remote. There were some movies there, and you know the first one I laid my eyes on? You guessed it - Hoosiers. There I am, in the biggest fight of my life, and the story of one of the greatest underdog stories is there to see. So I plugged it in, fast forwarded to the last hour (I've seen it at least 20 times already) and cried my eyes out at the end when they won.
Fast forward 3 1/2 months.....As I now enter a 3 week recovery from chemo, and prepare for my next PetScan on October 12th pre-radiation, I feel like it's all been a dream - an emotional, inspiring, harrowing, uplifting, and glorious dream.
So here I am, ready to go out on the floor for the second half of my treatment regimen at the hand of a little bit of radiation (daily for many weeks). I'm gonna defeat this Goliath, kick the b*tch in the nuts, and get on with the second half of life for my friends, my family, and my beloved Amanda.

Gene summed it up best at the end of this clip......

"I love you guys." Every last damn one of you.
Carpe diem.
p.s. For those of you who want to watch the 'original' Milan Miracle, here's a link from the IHSAA's website to the last few minutes of the Milan Indians vs. the Muncie Central Bearcats in 1954:


  1. There are those that say that God doesn't care who wins the ballgame. But in the game of life, God always cares. And we care...prayers continue during your "halftime break". Peace, Julie

  2. Wow!Shoot the lights out of the b**st*rd. Love,Jill

  3. Bill
    Your honest comments and heartfelt emotions are inspiring to us all. Your eloquence is very moving! We are "back here" in the Midwest, cheering you on and praying for you and Amanda every day.

    Love you

    Kathy and Bob

  4. What a focus...what an attitude...what a God who is with you "David".....Christy C.

  5. I am going to start referring to you as "Bill Baker Chitwood" until you are through with chemo.