Facing health challenges, racket in hand

Last week I met a woman at indoor tennis courts who told me that she recognized me at a Whole Foods and wanted to say “hi,” but thought that was too pushy. She had seen an article in the Springfield Republican about the success I had had in UMag, Croatia, winning the gold medal at the World Team Championships. A few days later, I received a card through the mail from a friend I have not seen in over 30 years, and she had seen an article and picture in the local Hampshire Gazette (read article) on the same topic. Tennis continues to amaze me . . . the friendships (lasting or renewing) and the caring that is obvious along the way.

The passion to play is an unmistakable characteristic of so many people that I teach, compete with, and know. It seems that as we grow older, we become more aware of the importance of tennis in our lives.

I am now competing with a chronic, so far untreatable and irreversible condition brought on by numerous large cysts in my spine. Twelve years ago I had brain surgery for a Chiari 1 malformation. I was out of tennis completely for 6 months and was lucky to be able to move ahead fully and without evidence following my recovery from surgery. Now I struggle with this new predicament, which started in my final years of coaching at UMass, and which doctors tell me has no relief. Symptoms are chronic headaches, lightheadedness, tingling in my hands, and loss of balance, among others. Despite these challenges, I work hard to be positive and adapt, particularly on the court where I have learned to keep my head still(!), not hit many overheads, and to adjust my serve to compensate for the dizziness and loss of balance. This has been the new norm for the past three years. Even though my symptoms impact my tennis, playing still provides me a much needed distraction.

At the beginning of training last year, given my medical issues I was skeptical that I could meet my goal to compete on the U.S. team at the International Championships. Playing (and winning!) in Crotia is a life experience I will never forget. I am intent on competing well again this coming year. Looking forward to the 2019 schedule, I hope to compete in national events in February, April, and May. Coming up for me next, mid November, I will play #1 singles and doubles for New England in Phoenix at the National Intersectionals. I now have 2 weeks to complete the training for this event, a favorite as it is another team competition.

In no way am I alone in playing through difficult times. Being unable to play would be so much worse than just trying to adapt and move on without it. A life without sport (in my case, tennis) would be such a different life and a life without the people I have met through tennis would be only half full.


To read about my experience competing at the International Senior Championships in Umag, Croatia: Visit the Gazette article

To follow my seniors tournament record, visit the ITF site and click on the Activity tab.
To follow senior tennis competition generally, visit Carolyn Nichols’ Tennis Website.

To read all of my blog posts related to competing again: https://judydixontennis.wordpress.com/category/competing/

3 Comments Add yours

  1. maslab1 says:

    Judy, we’re all pulling for you and we know that you’ll overcome this obstacle, just like you’ve overcome so many throughout your life! Keep plugging away and know that you have so many dear friends with you on this journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. sunbird15 says:

    After being hit by a car on crosswalk, my athletic ambitions have been so curtailed. At 74, I know exactly what you are facing. Keep on keeping on. We hide our pain well…with determination you will play on Judy. And you will be good…no matter the outcome. You are more than a tennis player. Love you girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sandya919 says:

    What an incredible inspiration you are on the court…..and more importantly off the court. I so sorry for what you’re going through. Just like you helped my daughter and I with our flat forehands, you’re giving us another lesson – on ‘how to live’. Thank you for being you Judy Dixon. You’ve touched many, many lives – all of which are rooting for you and love you.
    With sincere admiration and fondness ~ Sandy Alevizos
    PS……Go get ‘em in Phoenix!
    (Former ‘Women’s Tennis Camper’ from Natick Racquet Club)

    Liked by 1 person

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