the videos from the hospital, the friendship of Navratilova-

Of Gaia Piccardi

The former American champion talks about her chemotherapy cycles on social media: “Respect your body, prevention is important.” Her sister Jeanne died of the same disease. In the 70s Lea Pericoli was the first to say everything publicly: “Veronesi helped me”

“After tennis, I have a new challenge: it’s called ovarian cancer, it was discovered in time, six cycles of chemotherapy await me.”

On January 15 this letter landed in the mailbox of Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin, the friends of a life spent on the tennis court and lived by Christine Marie Evert called Chris, 67 and 18 Grand Slam titles between ’74 and 86, as a queen. American from Florida, three children by the second of three husbands (former skier Andy Mill, the others are former English tennis player John Lloyd and former golfer Greg Norman), a famous engagement to Jimmy Connors in the 70s (as lovers they won Wimbledon in 1974: the marriage jumped on the altar because Chris, pregnant, decided on her own to terminate a pregnancy), at the age of 67 she is playing the game of life with her head held high, each step of the disease is told in small videos on social networks that aim to normalize a healing path shared with followers and supported, starting with former rival of a thousand battles Navratilova, by the entire international tennis community.

And then we discover that Chris Evert’s referral hospital is the Cleveland Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the surgeon who operated on her hysterectomy (that’s how the champion discovered the tumor) is Dr. Joel Cardenas, l nurse is Gladys and who keeps her company during the infusions is Andy, the father of his children: “The best ex-husband in the world” (upon completion of the divorce paperwork, in 2006, she was the one who settled him with a check for $ 7 million).

The choice to open up to the story of a difficult moment, from Fedez to Evert, is no longer rare. But in ’73 it was not so obvious that it would happen: when at 37 a Lea Pericoligreat champion of the past, was diagnosed with cervical cancer, Lea immediately decided to talk about it: «It’s not about courage: the moment they told me, I was scared of the devil – she remembers -. At the invitation of Professor Umberto Veronesi, a fantastic, optimistic and kind man, I decided to react by telling him to the public. It was an outlet, sure, but I also thought I could help someone get over it. I didn’t want it to be a secret: so I told everyone! ».

Chris went further. Shares advice dispassionate (“Get checked periodically, don’t skip doctor’s appointments, respect your body: prevention is essential”), anecdotes personal (“My sister Jeanne died of the same disease in February 2020, at the age of 62”), perplexity (“I have always been in control of my tennis and my life, now I don’t know how I will react to treatment” he said at the beginning of the chemotherapy cycle), statistics (“My cancer is in the first stage, if I had discovered it three months later it could have been in the third or fourth stage. And if I hadn’t done anything, it would have reached the abdomen”).
The latest video is from last Tuesday. Hat, mask, needle in his bruised arm: «Hi everyone, Crissie is talking to you. This is Benadryl, to make me relax, then in the IV there are steroids to keep me strong (don’t tell the WTA, the association of professional tennis players!) And an anti nausea. I had to postpone the chemo session for a week because my white blood cells were too low, but now I’m ready. I am missing two. C’mon ».

Jeanne Evert is the guardian angel who watches over her recovery. In October 2017, the two sisters were running to not miss a flight to Singapore when Chris noticed that Jeanne was out of breath. «Ovarian cancer does not manifest itself, it is silent and asymptomatic: all my tests before the hysterectomy were negative, including antigen 125, every day I went to the gym or ran or played tennis. The strength with which Jeanne faced her illness motivates me every day, the memory of her is my inspiration. It is my sister who guides me through this experience ».

Last visit to Dr. Cardenas was a joy: the cancer has not spread, 90% full course of chemotherapy should solve the problem. It is since 1971, when – two-handed backhand, blonde bangs, killer instinct – he made his 16-year-old debut at the US Open that Chris Evert inspired America. Telling his story, this story, was a necessary gesture.

April 3, 2022 (change April 4, 2022 | 00:15)

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