My teammate, Linda Daniels, had a much worse time with her breast cancer 14 years ago than I did, as it was diagnosed as Stage 2B and had spread to her lymph nodes. She hugged me the day we qualified for the National event and said: "Can you believe we're here and doing this?"
We both acknowledged being overwhelmed.
"I never imagined this," she said, and neither had I.
Working for The Baltimore Sun, and its now-defunct sister paper, The Evening Sun, I've reported on a lot of tennis. I covered the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open from 1988 through 2003.
I saw and wrote about a lot of great accomplishments — Andre Agassi's 1999 victory at the French Open, when he won the fourth of the four majors, something only four other men had done at the time; and the 2002 U.S. Open, when Pete Sampras, who hadn't won a major in three years, turned back the clock and beat Agassi, for what was his 14th and last Grand Slam victory.
I've interviewed many professional athletes who have unshakable nerves and unparalleled competitiveness. My teammates and I will never be like them. But each of us has overcome something to be on this team, whether it was health issues, self-doubt about our games or other personal injuries or insecurities.
No, we didn't win the national championship, but we were winners all the same.
We were there. We were enjoying each other's company, doing our best and competing.
For me, it was proof that desire and will can make dreams come true — sometimes, dreams bigger than you ever could have expected.