One Before I Die

One Before I Die. If you’re a Cleveland sports fan, you know what this phrase means. Cleveland has been the sad and sorry victim of a series of VERY unfortunate events related to multiple heartbreaking and painful losses by each of our professional sports teams. Perhaps due to a 50+ year curse or maybe just crappy luck, anyone who was raised in Northeast Ohio or who has lived here for more than a few years knows the drill.

For the past 44 years (yes, even as an infant my Dad was working on turning me into a Cleveland sports fan), I have become accustomed to the disappointment. Cleveland fans are used to being the losers- the ones whose teams find a way to fail at the least opportune moments. We watch as other less deserving, less long-suffering, and often less talented teams get the trophies, the parades, the adulation, and the respect.

I’ve watched my 72 year old father suffer over and over again through multiple miserable seasons. I’ve sat in those stadiums and arenas with him and at home with our eyes glued to the screen and screamed and clapped and prayed with all of our hearts…only to end up dejected and hopeless. Until the next year….when we would start all over again.

One Before I Die. I wanted this for my Dad- just ONE big championship win before he was gone or too old to enjoy it. JUST ONE. ONE for my Dad, my friends, the fans, our city. One Before I Die. I wanted this for THEM because I knew I had plenty of time for Cleveland to eventually win SOMETHING.

Or at least I thought I did.

So, this is where my sports-themed story takes an even more depressing turn. You see, three years ago, despite being in excellent health, and having no real risk factors or family history, despite being an active, non-smoking, mom of two who has always had her regular check-ups and never had as much as even an ear infection- I found out that I had breast cancer. There wasn’t a real explanation the doctors could give me as to why I got cancer. They told me that sometimes it just comes down to bad luck.

I had just turned 41- and I was very, very sick.

Suddenly, things like sports lost much of their meaning for me. I had bigger problems than being a fan of losing teams. I had cancer. And nothing else really mattered. I had to fight now to live- to endure a different form of pain and suffering and loss- and watching sports or doing nearly anything “normal” just wasn’t the same anymore. It seemed trivial and pointless to waste time watching my teams stumble. Every second I had left became important to me, because I didn’t know how many more I would get.

But I’m writing this now, so you know that I made it. I’m a bit worse for the wear. My body was disfigured and after six surgeries it is finally looking somewhat “normal” to me again. My hair fell out with the chemotherapy and came back in a little weird- but it came back. My energy slowly returned. I went back to work. I tried to figure out how to have fun again. My cancer sent me on a path that I never wanted to travel- and it has been very difficult dealing with the aftermath. I’ve got so many visible scars…yet even more inside where no one can see.

This brings me to Sunday night. The last game of the NBA finals. A game that our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers were not even supposed to be playing in. They fought back against ridiculous odds to make it to that game, but many of us were hesitant to allow ourselves to have hope that they could actually win the whole thing. So, I sat on the floor in front of the TV with my husband and daughters- and I waited for it to end. I waited for that last second shot by the other team- that foul we shouldn’t have committed- the anguish of seeing the other team hoisting the trophy.

You know the rest. “WE WON!” I screamed ‘til I was hoarse. We ALL screamed and jumped up and down and cried like little kids. And I heard myself cry out to my husband through my sobs, “THEY DID IT! I GOT TO SEE IT! BEFORE I DIE! I didn’t think I’d make it! But I did! WE DID! WE WON!” It dawned on me that I hadn’t really thought about the fact that I may never live to see the day. I didn’t let myself think that way when I was in the middle of treatment and just trying to survive.

But last night- it hit me hard. One Before I Die. In that moment Monday night, for this long-suffering Cleveland fan, it was about so much more than a championship. It was the realization for me that I had made it through the worst time in my life. I won. The Cavs and my favorite player, LeBron James, reminded me of that. They were down and out. But they never quit. And when the final seconds clicked down last night, I felt as though they had won it FOR ME. I lived to see it, and I will hopefully live to see many other incredible life moments with family and friends.

So, thank you LeBron, and Kyrie, and every player on the team for reminding me what it feels like to be a winner. The bad luck of seasons past and my cancer diagnosis now seems to have lifted. They did it. I did it. WE WON. I got my One Before I Die!!

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Julianne Allen

I used to do exciting things. Then I had children. Now THEY do exciting things and I drive them there. Mother of two girls, crazy but cool PTA volunteer, part-time substitute teacher, baker of vegan goodies (for my food-allergic teen). I walk on my treadmill so I can watch my reality shows without guilt or shame. I’m a cancer survivor too, so everything else in life ain’t all that bad.

28 CommentsLeave a comment

  • What an emotionally uplifting account. Isn”t it amazing how events in our lives help us understand and cope with our lives challenges. Bravo, Juli

  • Thank you, Julie! I just read this and winning has a whole new meaning! I’m a Clevelander who has lived through the fumble, the drive, the teams falling apart the last seconds, and this article has put a whole new perspective on WINNING! May God continue to bless you with good health and happiness that you so richly deserve. Knowing your husband and his family for many years, you have the best people in supporting you-but also many friends at your side anytime you need us! With love always, Mrs. B.

  • Julie,
    What a WONDERFUL article but you are really the STAR!!!
    I’m so glad the CAV’s made this so positive for you.
    Congrats on your great writing style and telling your story.
    Love you and look forward to seeing you soon.
    aunt betty

  • Darling Jules, I am so blessed to know you. The longer I am your friend, the more Crazy I am about you dear Jules!
    You are amazing at so many things, but it is crystal clear that writing is your top talent. Please keep writing exceptional pieces like this, so that we can all continue to be moved by your inspiring words.
    We love you a million times over. Tricia V.

    • Oh my goodness, Tricia V. You make me smile and fill my heart with the happiness of true friendship! THANK YOU! Love you so!

  • What can I say, my beautiful daughter, that hasn’t already been so lovingly stated by others.
    I admire and love you for all that makes you so very special to us and to this world. You dad and I are privileged to call you our daughter. Mom

  • Very well written!! I did not know about your battle but I am so glad you won! You are even more awesome than I thought,my super sub!!! Cleveland is truly the home of Champions!! Trisha

  • A wonderful reflection on the many good things that I pray will continue to come in to your life. I’m humbled by your strength, and blessed to have been a small part of your journey, and continued friendship.

  • You are truly amazing.. I’ve followed you for a while and many of your thoughts have inspired me to fight through my health issues! Thank you!

  • You summed it all up perfectly! It was truly a win for all of us!!! I also am an ultimate warrior and survivor! But not just once… twice. And it wasn’t a reoccurance of the first, it was a second type of breast cancer. So I know all too well what in means when your busy life stops and is turned upside down. All of my battle scars remind me how hard I fought to get to the other side and be cancer free again!!! So congratulations to you and to all of us who stand a little taller after such an amazing win! Cavaliers… thank you for uplifting all of us, I was at the parade and it was breathtaking seeing all the love the city has for each and every one of you!!! Enjoy the off season… you deserve it! We will see you back soon and ready for another championship!

  • Beautifully written by my beautiful friend! What an inspiration you are, Jules! Love you and miss you!❤️

  • Hi Mrs. Allen (Julianna),
    Just saw your story on Cleveland 19 News. I had to go to your blog. WOW… BEAUTIFULLY written!!! I am so proud of you!! You always come into my classroom, to fulfill your TA position twice a month with smiles, energy and determination! YOU DID IT!! You are such a strong woman! We are very lucky to have you in our school community! I am blessed to know you!!
    GO CAVS…my wish for you is 2+
    Tammy Mlady

  • You’ve always been a winner and inspiration to me Jules! I’m just happy that now you feel it and can celebrate all the good to come!

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