During a brief interview with TF1, Eric Abidal talked about his return. During that interview, he in fact confirmed that his tumor was cancer.
As a brief fill-in, you can have a tumor and not necessarily have cancer. It is only when a tumor becomes malignant that it is determined that you have cancer. Patients and doctors (but not all of the public, and certainly not journalists) are very aware of the difference.
Here are a few quotes from the video:
“Fighting cancer was my own Champions League. It wasn’t easy, especially for my family.”
“The first thing you think about when hearing the news is your family, your children. You don’t want to leave them behind.”
“Nothing should change …. I have a wonderful family and friends. I play at the best club of the world, with the best fans.”
When the ovation that greeted Abidal as he ran onto the Camp Nou pitch against EE occurred, it was probably pretty much impossible for any cule to get through it dry-eyed. I sure didn’t. It was as pure a human moment as could possibly be witnessed, because it wasn’t “Yay, our left back has returned!” It was “Here’s a human being who has gone toe-to-toe with something that destroys, that kills. And he’s back. Wow.”
Let’s not kid around here: Athletics has many people who have battled cancer. The most famous is cyclist Lance Armstrong who, irrespective of what you feel about his on-bike exploits and whether or not he’s a doper, has gone far and done much with his survivor status.
And perhaps what makes athletes beating cancer so much more amazing is that cancer is, simply put, the body betraying itself. One cell goes rogue, takes a bunch with it and suddenly you have a foreign invader, a malignancy where before you just had a working athlete’s body. Somehow, when an athlete performing at the highest level has cancer, it seems more poignant. This isn’t really fair, I think, because when anybody does what Abidal did, it’s incredible.
Because beating cancer isn’t just a one-person battle. It’s a medical team, family, friends and a belief that survival will happen. So many of us, in our own lives, have someone who has either succumbed to, or had a brush with cancer. I lost a dear friend to brain cancer, and had lunch on Friday with a wonderful, wonderful art critic who writes for me, and has become a friend. She beat it, and there we were at lunch, (as she called us because we were both bald) White Ball and Black Ball. It was awesome and yes, I thought of Eric Abidal and said to myself, “Up yours, cancer. You didn’t get these two.”
Just as he plays the game, Eric Abidal handled the cancer battle with grace and style. He nor the club exploited it, didn’t beg for sympathy or parade it around. When the surgery occurred, nobody knew except the involved parties that the tumor was malignant. And we still didn’t really know until the TF1 piece, though the reactions by some of his teammates, and the Champions League human trampoline might have given us a clue.
Over on Bleacher Report, Greg Lott had a wonderful column, the headline of which was:
Barcelona’s Eric Abidal: The True Winner of the Champions League Final in 2011
It’s a wonderful, wonderful read because it’s direct, soul-searching and heartfelt, like so much good writing. It’s definitely worth your time and attention. I’ll leave you with the last line:
On the 28th of May, therefore, it doesn’t really matter if it is Barcelona or Manchester United who lift the coveted Champions League trophy. The true winner will be Eric Abidal. Some things are just more important than football.