January 29, 2023

The Super Bowl Inside Me


What do the Steelers and cancer have in common? Nothing. So why during the play off game against the Ravens was I bargaining with Mike Tomlin for my cure?

I did it silently, while sitting on the couch in my friend’s studio apartment in Chicago. Nobody knew I was staring at the grass on the screen wondering ‘If I could trade in my cancer for a loss in the play offs, would I?’ as though that was a realistic option.

My first thought was no. In the depressing steel demise of my 1980’s childhood, the hope of Steelers victory was the glue that held Pittsburgh together. I remember before the Super Bowl how proud I was stepping onto the East Hills school bus wearing my One for the Thumb in ’81 sweatshirt. My Dad was one of those unemployed Yinzer in the ‘80’s, and though we didn’t yet know what ‘therapy’ was, hearing him screaming at the TV on a Sunday afternoon was an incredible release. How could I trade in the steel city glue for the disappearance of two tumors on my neck?

But now, three days before Super Bowl XLIII, I think the people of Pittsburgh would understand.  I want to knock on Mike Tomlin’s door in Squirrel Hill. We would talk on his porch. ‘Look man, I cannot even imagine how badly you want this, how hard you have worked for it, but please. I’m so tired of malignant cells massing in my neck.  I want all the Terrible Towels, Yes We Can t-shirts, and black and gold Eat’n Park smiley face cookies to be for nothing. I want the Steelers’ victory to disappear. I want to win. And I don’t want a parade or a celebration. I just want to go to bed quietly on Sunday night with no tumors in me.’ I’d say please, but really, I wouldn’t give Mike a choice. My way is the way it would have to be.

Maybe it was climbing on slag heaps and hanging out with guys in abandoned steel mills during high school that gave me this cancer. Many in Pittsburgh are still riding out the effects of the mills in their lungs, bones, and blood. I’m tenacious about my cancer care. I ask the right questions, get the right answers, but still there is no cure. So what is left to do but daydream about the melodramatic, the impossible, and bargain with something that is precious? I have as much control over my cancer as hundreds of thousands of drunk Yinzers have over a Super Bowl win. We’ll wait and watch.

If you are a cancer patient, have you ever bargained with the impossible around your survival rates or test results?

Kairol Rosenthal is a native Pittsburgher living with cancer. Her new book Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide To Cancer In Your 20′s and 30′s will hit the shelves in March.  https://everythingchangesbook.com/

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  1. The Healthy Librarian Says:
    January 30th, 2009 at 6:07 AM

    Your new web site looks amazing! I wish you much success with your new book & I’m going to pre-reserve a copy from my library ASAP!

    Didn’t know that you were from Pittsburgh-that’s where my mom grew up. She graduated from Taylor Alderdyce (sp?) oh back around 1935.

    I have some chemo-rad ?? for you re my mother-in-law-but I’ll be in touch.

    All the best! I’m certain your book will be a guide to many.

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