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How I Helped the Red Sox Win the World Series

by laura hayden about a year ago in humanity
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Less is More. It's All Just Rain. Giving is Getting.

When you think you are above reproach, life has a way of teaching you humility and perspective. I was barely 30 when they found a lump in my left breast. I was really too young and have no family history of breast cancer, so I blew off getting my first mammogram for a few months. I figured it was a cyst that would resolve on its own. Finally, my doctor who had found the lump called wondering why she had not seen any test results. She scolded me for being so nonchalant and shamed my carelessness. I was guilted into scheduling an appointment that day. I don’t want you to be concerned while reading this. This is not a story about me getting breast cancer but breast cancer is part of the story. I have never had breast cancer, so please sit back and relax into the story. Several weeks later—still convinced that this was a waste of time, I went to my first mammogram. I had heard horror stories for years about the boob panini machine and how painful it is to have your breasts pressed into a pancake. Honestly, it is not my favorite thing, wouldn't want to do it for hours but there are many many more painful things in life. Clearly these ladies have never had a baby, broken a bone, passed a kidney stone or had a guy try for anal sex. Not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea, I feel this procedure’s pain scale was exaggerated just a tad.

When she finished smashing my chest into balloon animals she asked me to wait while a doctor reviews the scans. Since this was my first time I had no idea that when the doctor comes to talk to you, it's not a good sign. Now I know they usually come back and tell you everything looks fine, and the results will be sent to your primary care physician. Being my first time the doctor telling me he was concerned did not worry me. I figured this was what they always did. So they wanted to do a fine needle biopsy with ultrasound sound, still thinking this was normal procedure, still convinced it was a cyst, I was not worried. About a week later I went in for the ultrasound needle biopsy. Still not worried, still having no idea that this was not a normal procedure after a mammogram. Ignorance is bliss. The tech starts the procedure using ultrasound to identify the lump location and pin point where to stab the needle into my breast to get a sample. Now this part hurt —think tiny knife jabs to your boob, the way you prick holes in a whole potato before you bake it. Fortunately or unfortunately I have a bit of medical knowledge so when the tech left the room to answer a phone call, I looked at the screen. Bad idea, then I started to worry, Cancer cells are very metabolic—meaning they have a lot of blood flow; fat deposits and cysts do not. There on the screen I could see a solid, not fluid mass, clearly not a cyst that would have been liquid with a lot of blood flow around the mass, not typical for a fat mass. Now I’m concerned. This was the week of Thanksgiving. The biopsy results were sketchy so I was scheduled for a lumpectomy a few days before Christmas. Now I was worried.

I used to be one of those people who made themselves crazy at Christmas. I went way over board. I decorated my house like Santa’s village. I baked cookies for every person I knew. I sent cards, made my own wrapping paper and decorated presents like they were for a Martha Stewart photo shoot. I was out of control. I would make myself crazed like so many people; women in particular must do extraordinary things involving the holidays so they will be ‘special'. Working myself to the point of exhaustion. That year with the pending surgery I was trying to de stress and decided not to do anything. I simply told my friends and family that I was really stressed and working a ton which was true. This year I was taking it off and doing nothing, no cards, no gifts, no cookies, no decorations and they were welcome to follow suit with regards to me. I really didn't want to tell my friends and family a few days before Christmas the real reason. “Hello …I may or may not have breast cancer… Merry Christmas.” If needed, after the holidays I would share the information with friends and family regarding my surgery. I think my husband was sad about no Christmas cookies.

Embarrassingly, my first thought about maybe having cancer was that of losing all my hair, vanity never goes away. Then it occurred to me … I could die. Oh vanity! But I have good hair… one of my best features. And if anyone has been faced with a scary health scenario you know your thoughts start to get a bit weird and crazy. ‘What happens if I lose all my hair and I die? Do I spend all eternity with the look I died sporting? I started working out—a lot! I can’t spend all of eternity bald and budgie. You have to be really thin to pull off bald well as a girl. Vanity…never goes away. When I heard guys talking about training for a triathlon or such I felt like shouting. “Oh yeah?!?" Big deal, I’m training for the after life! I started having crazy dreams that Santa Claus and the grim reaper were really the same character. Think about it Santa only works once a year, so easy for grim reaper to moon light that shift. Statistically a lot of people die on Christmas, the big black cloak could hide the red suit and then there is that song. They say it's a Christmas carol, but I think it's a warning. “Better watch out… Better not cry... Better not pout… I’m telling you why… Santa Claus / Grim Reaper is coming to town." (Same number of syllables – coincidence? And then it gets even worse. “He knows when you are sleeping, (both male) He knows when you are a wake…He knows if you have been bad or good… So be good or to hell he’ll take “ You will think of me when you hear that song this Christmas… and think… maybe she is right.

Throughout this holiday season while still more than a bit worried about the possible pending cancer and the hair situation… while not getting caught up in what I call the ‘must must do’ Christmas craziness, I still went to holiday parties and social events, enjoying people, my family and friends. AND honestly, it was the best Christmas I ever had. I stopped worrying about all the ‘stuff’ and focused on people. I learned that year, less is really a lot more. Ever since then I have a hard time making myself to anything for Christmas – because TRULY it is better when I did none of it. I still think my husband misses the cookies, so maybe some cookies.

Lesson one: less is more.

After my little hair loss cancer scare I became interested in promoting awareness for women’s health, particularly breast cancer. I started participating in the Avon breast walks. At the time they only held them in 5 cities and my goal was to raise money and walk in all 5 of the locations they were being held. The event is a on a weekend and you walk 26 miles on day one and 14 miles on day two. I missed the sign up date for Los Angeles walk so decided to do Boston as my initial walk. I could have started with San Francisco, but I was intimidated by the steep hills and thought I would save the hills for later in my breast walks adventures. I like Boston. I have friends in Boston and Boston in May is lovely.

I arrived in Boston the day before the first day of walking. They had a check in and all types of night before festivities for the walkers. Many people do these events as groups or families but I was solo. I enjoyed the people watching the night before none the less. It was a beautiful perfect crisp clear day in Boston and the cherry blossoms had began to bloom, which I must admit it is one of my favorite reasons for visiting Boston in the spring. I was looking forward to a glorious weekend of walking with survivors, supports and the good folk here to support women’s health. Most people walk on average 15-20 minutes per mile. But you must take in breaks, meals etc.… So walking 26 miles in a day is going to take 8-12 hours depending. Our call time for the event start on day one was 5am. I got up at 4:30am. I was ready with my supplies, extra socks and shoes. I’m walking to the event and it’s raining. Why Boston? Why must it rain today? Yesterday was glorious. And it wasn't just raining it was windy. Making the rain colder. I get to the starting location hoping the rain would stop, but no. It just got more violent. It turned to the type of rain that comes in sideways and bitch slaps you on the face. This type of rain eats anything but military strength umbrellas for breakfast. We haven’t even started yet and I’m soaked completely and cold. I’m from Los Angeles, and if you know anything about Los Angeleños we don't do weather. We like our weather in a 9-degree Fahrenheit temperature range, 70-79 degrees and sunny. This is what we tolerate and expect.

The walk hasn't even started and I’m freezing and soaked and trying to have a good attitude, and likely I’m whining. No, I was whining. A lady I’m guessing in her 70s is standing next to me listening to me whine. She is wearing a skullcap to cover her baldhead, she is very gaunt and from the looks of her, she has likely had a double mastectomy. She turns to be and states something so simple and profound I will never forget her. “Stop being such a pussy, its just rain.” For a few seconds I was stunned silent. I looked at her appearance and thought of the things she must have endured this year and thought – my god you are right. Its just rain, blisters heal, and the killer cold I’m going get will pass quickly enough. I don't have cancer. After the shock of being hip checked into the boards by grandma, I laughed out load, hard. I have thought about this woman and her words of wisdom so many times when I have felt myself getting whiny. Really its just rain!

Lesson two: It's ALL just rain.

After the weekend of excessive walking, a despite the blisters and exhaustion I decided I deserved a fabulous treat. I mean I walked 40 miles in the rain for a good cause—I deserved something nice. So Sunday after the walk I cleaned up and walked – yes more walking to a tiny Italian restaurant in the Back Bay. I was in graduate school at the time and really shouldn’t spend the money – but feeling very exhausted by my good deed felt I deserved it. What we can rationalize when we want. Having worked in the restaurant business for many years a single female diner at prime suppertime is a nightmare. One person taking up a whole table, and female—the worst, because women often don't drink, or at least not as much as a single male diner, this equals a poor check total. which means less of a tip. Yes, it is a sexist viewpoint, but if you have ever worked in a restaurant you know this judgment is true. Long-term waiter staff have a whole host of stereotypes stored in their brains, they have likely sized you up long before you have even ordered. Knowing all of this, I always sit at the bar if I can when I dine alone, that way I don't take up an entire table.

I pull up to the bar and decide I will have red wine—it’s an Italian restaurant for goodness sake. I scan the wines by the glass, boring selection. I worked in fine dining for a decade and my overall food and wine palate was educated to a place way past my bankroll. The short of it I’m a wine snob. I rather not drink if its not going to be something I enjoy. Why waste the calories or the money? So I decide on a bottle of wine, not crazy expensive but likely more than I should spend. But I deserve it… I just walked 40 miles in the rain for a good cause, pure rationalization. Those of you that don't know chianti classico is a wonderful wine, once you step past the jug wine with straw on the outside of the bottle. I’m a wine snob. A bottle is more than I need so I figured I could always take the rest of the bottle back to my hotel to enjoy later, more rationalization. I also order the lasagna, pure decadence, but again… I deserved it.

The bar is small and butted up next to the kitchen, likely an after thought from the restaurant’s original design. Places to store people waiting for a table, or god help us, the dreaded solo diner. I order the wine and lasagna and scarf on some garlic bread—again I so deserve this, I just walked 40 miles in the rain, up hill … the exaggeration and justification is gaining speed. Another solo diner sits to my right a few seats down. We are the only two at the bar on this rainy Sunday evening. I am perfectly content with my silence, wine and bread scarfing. He turns my way, I try not to engage but he asks me a question directly. I don’t why know people feel the need fill up silence. I want to ignore him, but doing so would be beyond rude and why am I being such an ass? Is it too much to be courteous to this man? He asked me what wine I was drinking. He said it never occurred to him to order a bottle alone. He stated he always came here with his wife and they shared a bottle, but alone he always ordered a glass and wasn't really that thrilled with the wines offered by the glass. I laughed out loud because it was the exact thought I was having 20 minutes ago. I told him why I laughed and offered him a glass from my bottle. Really it was more than I needed. He accepted. We chatted through our dinners and finished the wine together. He was a very pleasant solo dinner companion. He asked me why I was here and I told him about the breast cancer scare I had and the walk etc. He asked me if planned to stay over the next week, I said no. He asked me if I had ever been to a Red Sox game and stated sadly as many times as I have been to Boston I never made it to the iconic Fenway stadium. He thought that was a crime. He considered a Red Sox game among the top tourist must dos. He asked me if I felt like splitting a piece of tiramisu – he stated his wife and he often shared dessert, and its excellent but really too decadent to consume by one’s self. I just walked 40 miles in the rain, ate not low calorie lasagna and half a bottle of wine, why stop the “ I deserve this” thinking now. Plus I love good tiramisu. The upscale restaurant I worked at ruined me for cheap wine and mediocre dining. And it had the best tiramisu I have ever had, anywhere. So I was willing to give this a whirl.

It was during our tiramisu, which was excellent, that this man shared with me that his wife of 37 years had died 3 months ago of breast cancer. He told me about her as tears escaped his eyes. This restaurant had been one of their favorites and he hadn’t been here since she had gotten really sick. He thanked me for making his return to this place so enjoyable and for supporting such a worthy cause so personal to him. He insisted on paying for dinner, he understood about graduate school expenses. I gratefully accepted the gift, and sheepishly thought to my self I should have ordered pricey bottle of wine. And then scolded myself for having such a truly shitty thought when this man was sharing such a personal story and offering such a lovely jester of kindness. Human brains have no filter.

Upon parting he asked if I planned to return to Boston. I said, of course. I usually visit twice a year. Spring for the cherry blossoms and again in fall for the beautiful fall foliage. He asked for me email address. He would love to know when I’m in town again. A few weeks after returning home, and the blisters on my feet had healed and I was again acclimated to the sunny SoCal weather I know and love, I got an email for this gentleman asking if I knew when I was returning to Boston. Surprisingly I did. I had just booked some work for the fall. He asked if he could have my address, he wanted to send me something and he promised it was not sinister in nature. I laughed to myself. Nothing about this man seemed sinister unless tempting you with dessert was a vicious crime. Minus the white beard he was a man you expected to be Santa Claus in Norman Rockwell painting. Okay, based on my new view of Santa Claus and the grim reaper being the same person, maybe I’ll just change my description to a kindly grandfather type. So I emailed him my address and forgot about it. Not exactly sure but late September or early October I receive a letter from him. Inside was a single ticket to a Red Sox Game and a note telling me to enjoy the game. And ignore his coworkers who would be sitting in the seats around me. This was his season ticket he was gifting to me.

I understand baseball, but I don't follow the teams very closely until the World Series, I must admit. I showed the ticket to my husband who follows all sports very closely, and he was beside himself. The lovely widow had gifted me with his ticket to the playoff game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. I follow enough baseball to know this was not just a regular baseball game or ticket. This was a tremendous gift. The rivalry between these two teams is legendary. I email him straight away and asked if he as sure he wanted to give me such a highly prized and valuable ticket. He assured me that the ticket was meant for me. He believed I was good luck and should be at the game to support his Sox. I thanked him profusely, After the game, I again thanked him for the generous gift. He emailed me back and thanked me, convinced it was my presence at the game that caused them to win, I laughed and thanked him again.

After the Red Sox won the American League Championship Series he emailed me again, reiterting that I was the reason they won, I changed their luck. He even went on to tell me he thinks they will win the world series because I was at that pivitial game. I laughed and told him I hope they win the world series for him. I became very vested in the series that year, wathcing every game, rooting for Boston. Hoping with all my mght that Boston would win the World Series for this lovley generous stranger who lost his wife this year from cancer. The game I attended was October 18th 2004. Those who don't follow baseball wouldn't know, but those of you who do will know this was a historic game. The Red Sox won that game 5 to 4 after 14 innings then went on to win the next 2 games at Yankee Stadium and captured the American League Championship Series, the first time and only time so far a baseball team has ever returned from a 3-0 decifit and come back to win the series. Futhermore, the Red Sox went on to win the World Series that year for first time since 1918. Ending the Curse of the Bambino.

I don't profess to know a lot about sports psychology, accept I know its exists and is very real. On top of that, athletes at all levels are superstitious. To quote a line from a delightful baseball movie Bull Durham “You must respect the streak”. Did the Red Sox win the World Series because I didn't have breast cancer, walked 40 miles in the rain and then attended the pivotal game in the series? To a lovely widower who is a life long die-hard Sox fan, the answer is yes. So you are welcome Boston.

Lesson three: Even when you are thinking you are altruistic, the universe is giving you back so much more. Giving is actually getting. Try it.


About the author

laura hayden

An over educated blonde in fabulous shoes... but so much more. Comedian, author, podcaster and physical therapist. I can literally talk, write and discuss just about anything but if its funny I'm going to enjoy it so much more. Cheers!

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