Breathless This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 9, 2012
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I hit one knee on the ice, placing most of my weight on my stick. I try to take a few deep breaths, but that is easier said than done for an asthmatic like me. I close my eyes, cursing my lungs for rebelling. Then I curse myself for putting them through this. Just when I'm thinking I should crawl off the frozen abyss and be a normal, lazy kid whose athletic activities stop at NHL for the Xbox, something hits me on the back of the legs. Drawing what I am sure is the last gasp of my strength, I turn to see my teammate tapping the back of my shin pad with his stick. As he tells me I will be okay, he extends a hand, pulling me up off the ice and back into the practice line.

Ice hockey is a brutal sport, but as the only girl on a varsity boys' team, I have learned how to take a hit. The most difficult challenge is not a crushing check, but my own body. I often tell myself I would be better off if I were just out of shape. At least in that case there would be a solution. No matter how many extra laps I skate or shots I take, I cannot outrun my asthma. But that doesn't mean I can't overcome it.

For my doctor, who advises me every time I come down with a cold or upper respiratory infection to stay off the ice, asthma is an enormous obstacle. According to my mom, I risk my life playing the game I love. The truth is that both of them, while qualified to make those assessments, could not be more wrong. For me asthma has not been an obstacle, but a reason to keep going. When I can't take those deep breaths while my teammates are sucking air so effortlessly, I remind myself that I am still lucky. Hockey is a game that not everyone has the opportunity to play, and I could not, in good conscience, throw my chance away due to respiratory problems.

At the end of practice, although I am often winded and grateful for the chance to catch my breath, I don't think about the number of times I had to reach for my inhaler. Instead, as I undo the Velcro on my pads and untie my skates, I am always smiling.

I'm an asthmatic girl playing a “man's game,” and that is a fact I cannot change. However, in the long run, I wouldn't change a thing about my athletic life. Playing boys' hockey has given me the chance to do something that no other sport ever has: to overcome not just the limitations placed on me by others, but also the limitations my body has placed on itself.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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SarahCro42 said...
Apr. 21, 2015 at 9:26 pm
I play hockey too, boys hockey since I was three, but this past year I switched to the girls team due to checking, I later regretted it, but now I am doing some summer camps with the boys and I am really pumped to play the beautiful game with the aggression I missed while I was on the girls team.
journalistmom said...
Sept. 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm
Very well written and compelling essay. The element of surpise when you reveal you are a girl is powerful. Excellent.
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