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Published on February 17th, 2012 | by King James

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In Memory Of Danger

Has it really been two years? Have I been wearing this “Cancer Sucks” wrist band so long?

Surely not. It was just yesterday that I saw you come to practice for the first time. I can so vividly remember thinking “This may be the worst skater I’ve ever seen.” It did not take long for you to prove me wrong. I remember the determination on your face as I helped you move up and down the side of the track, barely staying upright, and the unwillingness to give up in the face of difficulty or adversity. We would be seeing a lot of that later.

I know it wasn’t so long ago that you donned the all-star team’s jersey for the first time and helped them to victory. Name: Danger S. Number: 1. I can remember even then thinking you were a natural leader. People were drawn to you. And it wasn’t too long after that when we noticed you started feeling poorly and sick.

It was just moments ago that we found out you had cancer and would not be able to skate for a while. We all knew you would beat it if anyone could, and that you would be back eventually. You were the toughest person we knew and never gave up.

I can remember it like it was just the other day when we both ran for the coaching position. I don’t know what ever compelled me to do that when you were such a natural leader and it was the obvious solution for you since you couldn’t skate. I remember being jealous of your experience and leadership. Why was I jealous of you when you were so willing to give and teach? I remember thinking that you looked so thin, and could not believe that someone so strong could look like they would shatter if they tripped and fell.

I could have sworn it was not so long ago that, funnily enough, we both ended up as Assistant Coaches. Unfortunately your fading health did not allow you to ever really fulfill that role and I stepped into some big empty shoes. And how quickly after that we all heard the terrible news that you were gone forever, and we gathered to trade stories over stiff drinks at lunch on a work day. Many of us sitting there with our shaved heads to raise money, but also in quiet solidarity.

Has it been that long since that awful funeral put on by your out of touch relatives who had no idea who you really were? I wish to this day I had walked out on it, because it was for someone else. It was for those strangers, and not you. A funeral for a someone I had never met.

When you died it exposed something to everyone in our league. It changed us. It showed us that we weren’t invincible. People had gotten hurt before, pretty badly even, but nobody had ever been taken from our derby family forever. Even the people who quit or retired we could still reach out to and talk to when we needed to, to draw on their experiences and perspective.

It’s so strange when people ask what the patches we wear on our uniform stand for. “Who is the Danger S One?” “You don’t remember? But you have been with the league for years.” I don’t know how to explain it properly. Saying you were a former skater who passed away doesn’t really say anything about you, and people only seem to have a passing interest. “How sad” they might say. I can’t blame them for their indifference, people pass on every day.

It is hard to believe you are gone forever – at least in a physical sense. While I’m not the coach anymore I often draw upon you to help. I can imagine you saying the right things to rally the troops, or showing others what hard work looks like through your actions. Maybe I’m idealizing you, maybe not. Maybe you never said the things I think you did. I’m not sure that it matters.

I guess it really has been two years. I don’t think I’m ready to take the wrist band off.

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To learn more about Stephanie Little’s story, as well as to support the fight against Cervical Cancer, please visit www.stlcharity.org/

King James is a retired coach for the Tallahassee Rollergirls, and runs South Central Derby News in his spare time.

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