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There I stand on the white line, waiting, eyes on the fuzzy orb coming over the net in my direction at wicked speed. As I focus all my energy on that round yellow ball and I cock my racquet back, all of my pain melts away and for a moment I am free. I am normal.

I manage a pretty good return across court as I watch my shot land just on the inside of the line, but my opponent is fast and before I know it, that lemon colored sphere is heading my way again and I must remain vigilant of its direction or I will miss my next shot. In my vigilance, I am unrestricted by my disease. I am without a care as my thoughts are only about the ball and the placement of my feet.

Oh boy, here comes a drive shot down the line! I am flat footed across the court but in a split second’s decision, I make a run for it. Will I be fast enough to position myself behind the ball in order to get it back over the net? Maybe!

That’s the nature of this game that I love. You play against someone but the person you challenge more than anyone is yourself. It’s a game of will. Can you stay focused? Are you able to maneuver into position and do you remember to step into the ball? Are your eyes on the ball at all times or are you daydreaming again? Do you know how to place the shot or are you just trying to stay in the game? Can you hit a winner?

Out of breath with wobbly legs, I smile as I wait for the next ball to come my way. I am ready. My racquet is back, my knees are bent and my eyes are steady on that round canary colored ball. It’s coming at me hard but I turn sideways and whack that sucker back over the net using all my strength. Now I am limp but I hardly notice because my focus is elsewhere and I am consumed by the love of the game.

I pay a heavy price for the love of the game now because of my sarcoidosis. I am completely shot after I play. My legs are like noodles. My bones ache. My muscles cramp. My lungs burn. Often, it takes me at least a day, sometimes longer, to fully recover but I can’t quit. I won’t. I need this game. It’s like medication for my soul because when I play, I feel like a whole person and very few things left in life give me this feeling. So, I’ll keep playing until I can’t anymore. I will appreciate every moment I have that feeling of utter freedom even knowing it will be followed by bone crushing pain.

I will continue to play for the love of the game and for the love the game gives me.