You never know where you’re going to run into an Iowa Hawkeye wrestling fan. A few weeks ago, I was finishing up my regular chemotherapy session when an older gentleman was assigned to the chair next to me. He looked to be in his 50s or 60s, gray-haired, and wearing a gold Iowa sweatshirt and jeans. As he settled into his chair Billie, the nursing assistant, greeted him with the familiarity of a nurse to a long-time patient and asked him if he planned to attend the Iowa-Indiana wrestling meet the following evening. Of course, when I heard Billie mention wrestling, all pretense of not eavesdropping fled, and I openly listened as he told her he was definitely planning to go to both that meet and the home finale on Sunday, Iowa vs. Michigan.
I couldn’t help being a bit envious as I looked at this man, who despite his presence in the chemo suite looked vigorous and energetic; a stark contrast to how I felt at the time, reduced to gasping for breath after walking across the room. He asked Billie if she would be at the final meets, and she said she would be at Sunday’s meet for sure. The man noticed my (not at all disguised) interest in his conversation, and asked if I was a wrestling fan. I told him I was, and we chatted about the prospects for Mark Perry (senior 165-pound returning national champion) wrestling in the final home meets of his career at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Perry had injured his knee at National Duals in January and had surgery that had kept him out of action since. We agreed that while it would be great for fans to see him wrestle at Senior Night on Sunday, it was more important that he be ready for the Big Ten championships at the beginning of March — and, of course, the NCAA National championships two weeks later. The man asked if I was going to be at the meets, and I had to admit that even though I had season tickets I wasn’t up to that sort of physical exertion yet. I felt like a real slacker, although it was obvious that the man was much further along in his chemo regimen.
That Sunday, to the surprise of absolutely no one living in Iowa this winter, there was a huge snowstorm that dumped nearly a foot of snow on Iowa City. As I huddled under a blanket on the couch, listening to Mark Ironside and Steven Grace call the Iowa-Michigan wrestling meet on KXIC radio, I thought about that gentleman from the Cancer Center. And I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to feeling a certain sense of satisfaction as Ironside mentioned the relatively (for Iowa) sparse crowd in attendance. “Ha! I bet that guy didn’t get to the meet after all,” I thought less than charitably. The following Thursday I was back in my usual chair in the chemo suite for my weekly dose. I didn’t see my new friend, but I did see Billie the nursing assistant. I asked her if she had gone to the meet and she said no, the weather had been too awful. “I suppose that guy didn’t make it either,” I said with faux regret. “Oh no, he was there,” Billie said, putting me in my place. “He doesn’t miss many meets; of course, he lives right near the arena.”
So this is my vow: Next year is mine. This chemo thing is going to be done in July, and come August I am going to renew my wrestling season tickets and this time I’m going to actually use them, dammit. If that guy can do it, so can I!