Wait ‘til next year……
There’s always next year……
See you next year…
Those are just three of the cliché rallying cries in sports. We’ve all yelled them at some point in our sports-loving lives.
That’s the beauty of sports. There IS always next year.
Unfortunately, in real life, that’s not the case.
I was absolutely looking forward to covering UCLA Bruins sports this year.
So many great expectations for the Bruin gridders coming into this season with new head coach Jim L. Mora. Same for Ben Howland’s men’s cagers with his top-rated recruiting class.
My year began at the Spring football game in Pasadena this past May. Then, in searing San Bernardino in August.
That’s when real life blind-sided me.
My mother, Suzanne Geller-Brickman, had been experiencing sharp, burning pains in her left side. Her doctor found a hernia and thought that was the cause of her discomfort.
My mother had surgery to remove the hernia on August second. But the pain steadily became worse in the following few weeks.
I called her one Saturday morning in the middle of the month. She was in absolute agony. My brother and I rushed her to a local emergency room where a cat-scan found there was a baseball-sized tumor in her left side deep below the rib cage.
That’s when I stopped everything regarding sports.
She was admitted immediately. Surgery was scheduled during the following week to remove the tumor to figure out what we were dealing with.
In the meantime, Mora’s gridders were ready to kick-off the season in Houston against Rice University on Thursday, August 30th.
On that exact day, a college girlfriend of mine buried her 14 year-old daughter taken a few days earlier by an extremely rare form of cancer called N.U.T. Midline Carsinoma.
The following day, we got more horrible news.
My mother was also suffering from an extremely rare form of cancer. This one called High-Grade Myxofibrosarcoma.
A soft-tissue disease not treatable with chemotherapy or radiation. Contaminated tissue that surrounded the tumor would have to be surgically removed. But, since it was a high-grade form, it’s return was imminent be it in a month, a year, ten years.
My mother went through three abdominal surgeries in a five week span.
After the third surgery, she was deemed cancer-free. She was resting at a rehab facility. Aside from discomfort from the surgery, she felt better and had an appetite.
When she left the facility, she went to see her doctor as a follow-up. He decided to run another cat-scan just to make sure she was okay.
Just three weeks after the last surgery, the cancer metastasized into her left lung and back. There was nothing they could do for my mother.
It’s October and she is sent home with 24-hour hospice care. She is to be made comfortable alleviating her of any type of pain with the use of pain killers five times stronger than morphine.
Slowly but surely, as the magnitude of the pain increases, so do the milligrams of pain killers.
My mother is no longer the same with slurring speech as if she were a drug-addict.
I have had health issues of my own suffering from Ulceritive Colitis for most of my life. In the process of “J-Pouch” surgery, a series of three surgeries removing the colon and bypassing the digestive system, my surgeon schedules me for the second of the three operations on November 20th.
I leave the hospital a week after the surgery.
Spending as much time with my mother is my priority. Her condition has worsened.
I stay over her house to be with her and talk about family things. We tell each other, “I love you” numerous times.
Just four months after her diagnosis, my beautiful mother passed away on Friday, December 21st. Suzanne was 75 years old. She was surrounded and comforted by my wife, my brother, her husband and me when she passed. One of the worst moments of my life.
My mother Suzanne was so instrumental in my love of sports, including UCLA sports.
When I was very young, I’d fall asleep in my parents’ bed on Saturday nights watching UCLA football replays with Mark Harmon at quarterback or UCLA basketball replays with the Bruins led by Bill Walton. Mike Walden and Gary Beban called the play-by-play on those KTLA telecasts.
She’d carry me to bed after my parents came home from a Saturday evening out.
We buried my mother on Christmas Eve. I’m still heart-broken and miss her very much.
Since my mother’s initial surgery in August for a hernia, Mora directed the Bruins to a 9-5 record. The Bruins avenged last season’s 50-0 loss at the hands of USC by beating the Trojans at the Rose Bowl, 38-28.
The Bruins won the PAC-12 South. They lost their last three games, including two straight to Stanford including in the championship game and subsequently lost to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
Although the Bruins didn’t make it to the Rose bowl, there’s always next year.
Meanwhile, Howland’s cagers have started the season at 10-3 with their last win over seventh-ranked Missouri at Pauley Pavillion.
Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith have left the team but the fabulous freshmen, led by Shabazz Muhammad, are doing quite well as they head towards March Madness.
But for my mother, there isn’t a next year. She was a wonderful woman that will always be in my heart especially when writing about UCLA sports or for anything I do from now until forever.