To Basketball

Subject: To Basketball
From: Sydnie
Date: 16 Jul 2016

My earliest childhood memories involve a basketball in some way. Whether it was trying to reach the basket from the foul line well before I should’ve been able to, or being strapped into a stroller on the sidelines at my brother’s has always been front and center in my life. It didn’t take much at all for me to learn to love the game. I didn’t have pushy parents who threw me into it, I never thought I had to do it for any particular reason. I picked up the ball, I made that choice, the only choice that has ever felt that natural to me, until now.
Basketball turned into an everyday thing for me before most kids could read a chapter book. My growth spurts arrived earlier than most so I had the luxury of being able to shoot far before others my age, a luxury I will forever cherish. Growing up in a basketball family is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world. My brother played, my cousins played, my uncle played, then created his own AAU team. When I was 5 years old I would sit on the bench with him and draw up plays, and he would use them...and they would work. The same time that I became a student in school I became a student of the game as well. Basketball is an art, an escape, a passion, something you dedicate yourself to. I threw myself into that life and I loved every minute of it.
Fast-forward a few years, I’m at the height of my high school career, or the height of my career in its entirety. By my junior year in high school I was one of the top players on an AAU team that finished second at nationals, and without question the best player in the Albany area. I was known to step over half court and pull the trigger, (and my percentage from there wasn’t to shabby). Although I wasn’t a point guard my ability to see the floor almost felt like a video game to me, and defensively I had this need to get the ball in which I had learned from my brother. I could do a little of everything and I could do it well. But by my junior year, ‘i had already had one back surgery and my fair share of sprained ankles and whatever other little ailments basketball players endure. Going into college those ailments really took off.
My freshman year of college sent me back home to the bone and joint center to have my second back surgery at the age of 18. My back doctor is set to operate on my grandmother for the first time in a couple of weeks, she is 82. Nobody wants to have any type of injury in their freshman year of college, let alone a repeat one. But that is something I got through. All rehabbed and ready to go, I came back to campus for summer session going into my sophomore year...just to find myself tearing my achilles and facing the longest and toughest rehab up to that point. I think this is where my mind and body started to change. Even after that injury I was okay. I was ready to do whatever I had to do to get back, and I did. But through that rehab I developed some sort of issue with my foot. First they said it was a stress fracture, then they said I had some mass of bone that shouldn’t be where it was, but whatever it was it was making my everyday life difficult. The burning in my foot would wake me up from my sleep, I dreaded going up or down any stairs..granted, I am very lazy, but this was a pain thing. Now here I am, in my junior year. Four years prior I was a 17 year old with the basketball world at my fingertips, at the very top of my game. Now I was at my lowest point, starting my junior year of college with another surgery to try and fix my foot.
It was a quick to weeks after this surgery until I could get back on the court and begin doing things. The first few days of being cleared felt pretty good and it was just a relief in all aspects to not feel anything in that foot. But when I didn’t feel anything in my foot, my achilles pain was through the roof. I still don’t know what it is, but something with that achilles didn’t heal right. The more time I spent on the hardwood the more that same foot pain started to come back. I wasn’t walking right, I couldn’t wear sneakers, and I turned into this negative miserable person. Looking at it now my body was telling me so desperately that it couldn’t do it. It couldn’t give me what I needed it to anymore. But, my mind said it could, and so it tried.
One day in February last season I had an appointment at home to try and figure out how to fix my foot and achilles. The only thing left between me and a quick trip up the Thruway to the doctor's office was 20 minutes left of practice. All it takes is one second, one sudden movement for you to do something. One second, one sudden movement I went down and felt that pop in my knee. Thank God I had Sydney to drive me home that day because my mind and body again were put into shock. There I was sitting in the foot wing of the bone and joint with crutches and an ace wrap on my knee, confusing the nurse who first came in to see me. Luckily the knee doctor could sneak away from surgery to look at me, he said he thought I was fine much to the relief of Syd and my mom, but I knew I wasn’t. A couple days later my MRI came back and confirmed a torn ACL and meniscus, and I scheduled surgery a week before my 21st birthday.
At this point my reaction to injury was mundane. I put on a brace and grabbed the crutches and went to games trying to avoid questions and ignore stares. Yes I was hurt again, yes it was unfortunate, no I was not okay. I basically stopped sleeping at all. I cried every night. I questioned a lot of things. I hated basketball for a moment. The night I came home from surgery was one of the worst nights of my life. I thought my pain threshold was pretty high, the pain I felt trying to get through practice everyday before my ACL was pain I think a lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle, but I was doing it. The pain that night was unbearable. The reasonable answer was that the doctor used a hamstring graft and that more times than not hurts more than the knee does after surgery, looking at it now I think it was my body letting me know it was really done this time. It was done before and now I was putting it through this, so this is what I got. My parents loaded me into the car at midnight and brought me to the hospital where only morphine could stop my body from convulsing from crying. Never had I screamed like that or cried that hard. The following days got better, I went back to school and was around my friends and back with the team and felt better. Until the worst of this all happened.
One morning I woke up in a heavy sweat, almost feverish sweat. I had thought it was because I was sleeping in someone’s room who liked the temperature set to have you baking, so I didn’t think anything of it. My knee hurt more than it had been that day, so rehab was just a bag of ice. But when I got to class I had the chills, and I thought something isn’t right. I went to health services and before I even knew it I was being driven back to Albany to go to the hospital. What was happening? Why was I going back there again? Could it be something that I could have avoided? After a few hours of hell in the E.R. a bunch of ortho residents had poked and prodded me until the bed was filled with blood. I had to be admitted overnight because of an infection that was brewing in my knee. They scheduled me to have it cleaned out in the morning. More anesthesia, another surgery, another hit to my body. I ended up in that hospital for 10 days. They called code blue on me twice, I lost a lot of time, I lost over 15 pounds, and I truly lost my sanity.
I had never known what depression was like, would it would feel like to live with it everyday and pretend I wasn’t. What it felt like to try to perform well in school not being able to focus and not sleeping at night. What it felt like to not want to be here. Not be dead, but just not here. This all happened a couple of months ago and I am still not passed it. I still hurt, both physically and mentally. I beat myself up knowing that I’ve put my body through things that it just shouldn’t have gone through and I beat myself up knowing that most of the pain I feel is going to be there everyday. Every time I step out of bed my foot is going to burn, every time I step up my achilles is going to pop and crack. Every time I walk into McCann my heart is going to die a little. I love Marist basketball. I love my teammates, I love the experience, I love being in the gym and watching the little ones that I’m mentoring now have fun and make the mistakes I once made my freshman summer. I love nights on the couch laughing and going out to dinner because all we do is eat. I love telling stories about my life here and watching them all get excited about what is to come for them. But ultimately my experience hurts me. I don’t want to say I’ve hated it because I haven’t. It has brought me life long friends and taught me lessons I will forever appreciate, but in this process I ruined myself. Who I am today is not me. And there is a lot that I am going to have to do moving forward to get back to me. The first step is admitting that I’m done. Physically I have given everything that I could. It may not have translated to much in stats and numbers, but my time on the court has been exhausted by something far out of my control. I will forever be willing to sacrifice my body. That’s something you decide an accept when you pick up a basketball. But I am not willing to sacrifice my mental health, I just can not do it. The way I felt on my lowest days is something I can’t even bare think about. Whatever I can give outside of stepping on the court I will put my heart and soul into. Knowing, really knowing I can’t play anymore is hard. It feels like I’m mourning the death of a part of me. However as natural as that choice to pick up the ball was, is as natural as the choice to put it down.