Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Survivor's Celebration

Last night the Golden State Warriors defeated LeBron James and the Cavs to win the NBA Championship. As you may know, it’s Golden State’s first championship since 1975, Oakland’s first championship since another duo of brothers—The Bash Brothers—helped lead the A’s to a World Series victory in 1989. In 1989 I was ten years old. In 1975 I didn’t even exist; I may have existed as an idea, a dream, una esperanza para mis papas.

After the game, I joined my homies, Kevin and Joanne and a few of their friends as we walked to the 14th and Broadway intersection, a stone’s throw from City Hall. A mass of rowdy revelers, donning yellow and blue, had united there to celebrate our team’s victory. Downtown was joyous bedlam—a never-ending stream of vehicles honking and hollering as they coasted down Broadway and its adjoining streets, the sidewalks teeming with fans shouting back in a give and forth with the celebratory honking, a helicopter hovering high above. It was a swirl of exaltation. It was thirty-nine years in the making.

I cheered and shouted with my friends and the crowd gathered in the middle of the street. The streets echoed with chants of “WAAAAAAAARRRRRRRIIIIIUUUUUURRRRSSSS!” “Fuck LeBron!” and “M-V-P!” when one man held a blown-up drawing of Stephen Curry’s face sneering like he did after sinking a three near the end of Game 5. I used my voice recorder to capture these chants, these roars, these moments. I also snapped some pictures and video-recorded our celebration. With camera in hand, as I did a pan of the crowd, I stepped back and remembered that this moment might not have happened for me. (This happens every once in a while, especially when I’m seeing something beautiful, almost never for something mundane like biting into, say, a Whopper Jr.) If I had not received treatment, I might have been another lymphoma statistic. My life may have culminated to becoming a few handfuls of ash scattered up into the sky—in a redwood forest, up along the Salkantay Trail, or perhaps at the foot of El Misti. I’m not sure what my parents would have done with my remains.

Being reminded of all this made the celebration even sweeter. And that’s the thing about being fortunate to be a cancer survivor—that well of gratitude never ends until we’re dead. It never ends as long as we remember to remember. I lived long enough to see my team, the city I love so much, win a championship.

It was a beautiful night.