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Thursday
Jan272011

A Perfect Day at Duke

I knew that today would be awesome. Walking around West Campus, grabbing some Chick Fil-A (don't worry, I didn't eat the chicken nuggets - I did, however, have the waffle fries), shopping at the Bryan Center, enjoying the Duke Gardens, and capping off the day with a Duke basketball game

But Duke in super-HDTV is more than awesome. It is magical, brilliant, and truly unforgettable. And that's what today was. 

Being on campus, like I said yesterday, was a homecoming. I walked around campus today, soaking in all the sights and sounds and remembering how truly special my time at Duke was and continues to be. The nostalgia and happiness I felt translated into my going a little crazy at the Duke store, buying a new hat and a new shirt and a new sweatshirt. While I was on my little shopping spree, the National Championship game from last year was playing on loop and I took a moment to watch the final seconds of the game - when we became National Champions for the fourth time. The same lump in my throat and wave of pride that I felt when I watched Duke win that game in person in Indianapolis last spring came back quickly. I'm proud to love an organization that not only stands for excellence and integrity and all that good stuff, but also wins often and in dominant fashion. It's the best of both worlds, really - you're proud of your team for the people they are but you're also proud because they're damn good at winning. That's the kind of pride I hope to inspire in my loved ones, to be honest. 

After a few hours of hanging out on campus, it was time to get ready for the game. We had our pre-game meal at Blue Corn Cafe - black bean and sweet potato stew followed by vegetarian fajitas for me - and got to Cameron Indoor Stadium about 40 minutes before game time. As we walked to our seats (Coach K and his assistant, Gerry, hooked us up), I couldn't believe where we were about to watch the game. Center court, right behind the folks who manage the shot clock (which had some troubles tonight) and all the A/V stuff. So essentially, we were seated front and center - the kind of seats that a Duke student would’ve spent at least a half dozen hours in line waiting for. I was a kid in a candy store, rockin' out to the Duke band, watching our guys warm up, harassing the Boston College players, and getting my game face on. Being a Cameron Crazie is serious business to me - the guys are out there trying to win, and I want to do my part to help them along, whether it's cheering them on, trying to get into an opposing player's head, or doing a little crowd management by keeping the opposition's fans in check (which I really had to do during that National Championship game last year since the crowd was about 90% Butler fans and 10% Duke folks). Being a Duke fan isn't for the passive or the fainthearted. 

As the opening buzzer was minutes away from sounding, my hero, Coach K, appeared. He walked over to our bench, and just before he started doing his thing, he scanned the crowd, made eye contact with me, and gave me a nod and a thumbs up. My heart skipped a beat and I smiled and raised my hand. I could hardly believe it. Did that just happen? I turned to Will and asked, "Was Coach just looking at me? Was that thumbs up for me?" He laughed at me - "Yes! Of course!" You should've seen my face. Pure happiness.

 

The game itself was brilliant. Our guys played extremely well and with a lot of heart. Nolan was awesome, as usual, leading the team in points and assists and making me scream my lungs out during this one play where he stole the ball at mid-court and flew in for a decisive slam dunk. All of our other guys played great, too. There were many, many moments that had me jumping out of my seat, howling with joy. We beat Boston College by 16.

After the game, Gerry came by and took me to see Coach K. But before that, I spent some time with my old buddy and classmate (and Coach K's daughter) Jamie, along with Mrs. K. We talked about my upcoming surgery, the blog, chemo, my philosophy on cancer and doctors, and the game. I loved catching up with Jamie and Mrs. K, and moments later, the man himself joined us. Coach K asked me questions about my surgery and gave me some advice on being a competitor but taking it easy on my body immediately after surgery. He's pretty much the only person I'd actually listen to on the "take it easy" advice front, and I was humbled and grateful by Coach's pre-surgery coaching. After several minutes, we all said our goodbyes with hugs all around, and I left Cameron with my three nurses and Jamie, almost walking on air. Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to find a more lovely group of people than the Krzyzewskis. Incredibly wonderful people

As if that wasn't enough, as we walked to Jamie's car (she drove us to our car, which was in some far off parking lot), we ran into Nolan signing autographs and taking pictures. My mom asked if I wanted to take a picture with Nolan and I said no because I'm a little shy around Nolan. But then Jamie said, "Yeah, you should! Isn't he your boy?" I smiled and answered, "Well, he is my favorite."

 

That's all I needed to say. Jamie went right up to Nolan and asked him to take a picture with me, then added that I was the president of our senior class and the big woman on campus back in the day. We joked around about how much Duke has changed and improved since the dark ages of 2004, and Nolan and I took a pretty cute picture together. 

I polished off the day by polishing off a veggie burrito at Cosmic Cantina, trying to let the awesomeness of my day sink in. It still hasn't. It was an unbelievably incredible day, and one that I’ll never, ever forget.

 

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that your pal WunderGlo lives a charmed life. Never let some silly thing like a cancer diagnosis ever convince you otherwise.

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