May 31, 2012
by Roge Slater
It came from nowhere really. It wasn’t the result of a challenge or anything, just one day it was there, where previously it wasn’t. There were no headaches, just a slight feeling of pressure behind the eyes and occasional blurring of vision. It was an irritation, but little more, and it certainly wasn’t enough to warrant a discussion with my club or the team doctor. No one noticed, performance didn’t suffer and with no pain, there was no need.
The pressure was strange though. Not pressure like it was forcing the skull apart, but it was there none the less. You know, like the feeling when you press on an eyeball, only from the inside.
After a while, the symptoms worsened a little. The eyes were slow. Well, not the eyes themselves, more the muscles around and controlling them, especially late in the evening when tiredness played a part, or going from indoors to outdoors on a sunny day. It was only momentary, but it was definitely there.
The muscles felt like they were trying to move a great weight rather than just reacting to light, though they did (after a second or two) catch up. All that meant was a slight change to the match day routine, making sure that everything was working before the game started.
Still, no discussion with the doctors though. Especially not with a final coming up.
* * * * *
Man, its been a long season, but here we are. Lined up, eyes working and a European Final about to start. Come on eyes, we can get through this then there’s the whole summer to get over it!
OK, we’re off. Oh, a long ball forward, got that one, take that on the chest, knock it down, trap and a simple pass forward, now we’re on the attack. Move up, half way, OK stay close, keep my man in close, don’t want to give him a yard to turn in if the ball breaks out.
Come on, knock it wide… there, easy, now, round the man, hit the bye-line and swing in a cross. Oooh! Unlucky. I thought he’d misjudged that, looked like he’d run under it, but he’s just held on. Back we go, here comes a long bomb!
My way… watch it, watch it, and attack, there. Two steps and up… need to get some distance on this… that’s it, well away and off we go again…
* * * * *
No changes at half time, back out and ready. Our kick off this half. I’ll need to be careful of the lights though. Facing this way those long balls are going to come right out of the floodlights. I’ll need to get my angles right or I won’t see a bloody thing. I don’t want to be remembered for a cock-up that costs us the game.
Tracking left, tracking right, he’s not getting away from me. They haven’t threatened yet, not had a touch so far this half.
Here we go. Corner. Right, need to time my run here. Left hand side, start at the back of the box, jink in, run across. If their marker comes with me the cross comes into the gap behind me, and we should get a clear shot at goal… Ok, run. Jink… and again… there goes the cross, beyond me, right on the spot that one, a simple side foot and there we are, one up! They didn’t see that coming.
Right then, back to our box, line up, ready to go again. Got to keep it tight now, one-nil might just be enough, but we have to concentrate. Maybe ten or twelve to go. There’s more pressure in my head than in our box. Twelve minutes or so and my time’s my own for a few weeks to get this sorted…
* * * * *
That’s it, the final whistle, we’ve won the bloody thing! Christ, listen to that roar from the fans. Shit, that’s making my head bang. That bloody hurts now.
My ears, it feels like someone is sticking knitting needles through them. Even the pain is deafening. My eyes, too, my vision is blurring, everything is turning red, it hurts like hell. Heavy, very heavy, and the pressure…
Everything now. All of me. It feels like my head’s going to explode.
Who’s that? Clapping me on the back as they run to the fans. I can hear but I don’t understand. It’s all like white noise. I can’t focus, I can’t see more than shapes. I need to rest a moment.
Stop this pain.
Get my head back together.
My knees. I’ll drop to my knees for a second or two and close my eyes. Just to settle down. Relax. Deep breaths, then I’’ll be alright.
* * * * *
With all the celebrations on the field, he dropped to his knees, his arms resting in his lap. It looked to all around that he was giving thanks to whoever his god was. Born out of the emotion of the win, coming so close to the end of his career.
No one realised how close. None were aware that when he dropped to his knees he had a problem. His head bowed forward, shoulders dropped, arms hanging loosely in front of his body, his hands clasped in his lap, it looked as though the tension and pressure was pouring out of him.
When the manager ran over and tousled his hair in celebration, he fell to one side. It was only then anyone realised there was a problem.
There was no immediate indication that he was dead.
The main tumour was about the size of a golf ball. Right on the parieto-insular cortex of the brain, it had deadened the body’s sensation of pain. It had metastasized and a secondary tumour had engulfed the optic nerve. Between them, they accounted for the pressure in the head and the sensations in the eyes.
Finally, the main tumour had grown to the point where it caused the brain to stop. There was no shock or burst or haemorrhage. Simply, he ceased to function, an instant death as all bodily function ended in a single moment. His body had to all intents and purposes locked joint for joint in that kneeling position until the manager arrived.
The autopsy said there would have been a less than one percent chance of a cure, even if surgery had been attempted. Once the tumours had progressed to the point where the effects were noticed, they were too large to resolve.
Death of a Champion by Roger Slater is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.