Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month and we greatly appreciate Victoria Thio discussing Tennis for Life with us!

Tennis for Life provides free tennis lessons and court time so that breast cancer survivors may experience the benefits that tennis can bring to their lives. Tennis for Life also provides an environment for survivors to share their experiences and feelings in a relaxed social atmosphere and engage in learning activities. 

Learn more about Tennis for Life here.

Here’s a transcript of our discussion:

Carolyn: 0:07
Hi, this is Carolyn and I’m here with Erin. October is breast cancer awareness month and we’re really excited to have Victoria Thio here with us. She is the program director from Tennis for Life. So, Victoria, can you tell us your tennis background and about tennis for life?

Victoria: 0:24
So I started tennis. This is actually I was watching Wimbledon and I saw Chris Everett playing on TV and it was so amazing to me that it just I actually had a tennis racket. I went up and went to the high school tennis court and just started hitting tennis balls and I played just casually, and then I started playing a little bit in high school. It was really more learning how to play tennis in high school and then after college, when I started working, my company had tennis ladders, so my boyfriend and then, who became a husband we would play in the tennis ladders, but then, when children came along, things started getting too busy that I stopped playing tennis, and that was a good 20 years where the only time I played tennis was on family vacations. Then, in the end of 2016, I got diagnosed with breast cancer, and when I was in my radiation oncology office in 2017, I saw a brochure that caught my eye because I had a tennis ball on it, and this brochure was about tennis for life and they were starting up a program and this was in the winter time, so they were having indoor tennis at Wake Med Hospital. So I called the lead for that, alexis Johnson, and everything sounded so wonderful about the program that I went and joined and it was a blast. We were playing short tennis indoors on carpet with music blaring and it was just a lot of fun and through that I found out that tennis for life. They started offering weekly tennis clinics and it was because of that that I got back into regularly playing tennis. That has just been a wonderful experience and helped me out tremendously.

Erin: 2:12
So tennis, we all know that tennis brings really good friends into our lives. You must have made even better friends going through that experience with people and starting off with that, probably like a short court, like you said, inside. And then do you now play leagues and obviously you’re still involved with tennis for life, but are you playing tennis leagues with some of those friends as well?

Victoria: 2:35
Yes, so actually in tennis for life. One of the instructors was Kirstie Marks at Kilder Farms Racquet Club and she had tennis ladders and so I participated in that ladder and through that I met so many other women, so I started playing USTA for the first time in 2020.

Erin: 2:55

Victoria: 2:56
And that’s where some of the people I’ve met from the tennis ladders are on my team, as well as some of the people that I’ve met at Tennis for Life. We are now playing together on teams.

Carolyn: 3:07
That’s so cool. And so with Tennis for Life, you get free tennis lessons. Is that correct, Victoria? And then you also have meetings and discuss different things about breast cancer.

Victoria: 3:18
Yes, so we have weekly tennis clinics and these are all free. Everything actually for Tennis for Life members is free. We don’t charge anything To be in the Tennis for Life program. There are two unbreakable rules One is that it’s for breast cancer survivors only, and the other is that it’s free for all the breast cancer members.

Erin: 3:39
So what are the types of activities that you do in addition to tennis? You have meetings. I’m assuming this is like a support group and I know I’m sure that a lot of women come with questions for each other and you guys all can talk about your experiences. So what is it, in addition to the clinics, that you guys do?

Victoria: 3:59
So Tennis for Life is an active breast cancer support group. So in addition to the tennis clinics, we also try to do monthly activities. Those activities could be a support group meeting or it could be a presentation that we get on a health or well-being topic. Actually, this past Saturday we had a cooking demonstration and we do other activities like having tours of the governor’s mansion, ganda concerts, things that will help us to just be active, interact with one another. We’ve established a camaraderie that has extended beyond just our Tennis for Life activities. People get together and do other things. That has just been a great program for physical, emotional, social, well-being.

Carolyn: 4:53
That’s great, and do you feel like it helped you mentally after having to go through everything you went through with your treatments?

Victoria: 4:59
Yes, it helped with having the group together because it’s your work. You’re talking to people who’s been where you have been. They know what your story is. They’ve shared it. I have also learned a lot from the Tennis for Life members, and it’s just open and free conversation so you can ask about anything and they’ll tell you Somebody has experienced it or encountered it and they’ve got such great advice. So it’s a great program to be in because you’re able to talk to others who have been there and they can relate to what you’re going through, and so it’s just a good feeling to know that someone is there beside you and who understands.

Carolyn: 5:44
That’s really great and Victoria, when we were emailing prior to the interview, you mentioned that you were heading to the state championship. How was that? How did your team do?

Victoria: 5:54
Well, we didn’t do too good. We had a lot of fun, lots of fun. There were a lot of rain delays, so we ended up playing one match on Friday and then three more on Sunday, and they were short sets. Yes, friday was with ad, Sunday was with no ad.

Erin: 6:14
It goes fast, doesn’t it Winter lose? It goes really fast. We’ve actually done episodes on short sets and I don’t think anybody would choose to play a short set after doing that episode. Nobody actually wants to play that way.

Victoria: 6:27
Yeah, it’s a little hard.

Erin: 6:31
It’s usually short, sets are usually four games, right, no ad. Two sets, four games. It usually takes me at least four games with ad, with multiple ads, multiple deuces, to just get warmed up.

Victoria: 6:42
Same with me.

Erin: 6:44
Yeah, it can slip away quickly.

Victoria: 6:46
And then at states you only had the five minute warm up.

Erin: 6:49

Victoria: 6:50
And then it was made it even harder, but it was all fun. Too bad that the rain was there, so it was harder for us to stay together Right, because that’s part of states too is not just the tennis, but being with your teammates.

Carolyn: 7:07
And were some of your teammates, people that you met through tennis for life. That went to the state championship.

Victoria: 7:13
So actually several of us were our Tennis for Life members on the team who went to states and all the teams that I’m on. There’s actually at least one other Tennis for Life member.

Carolyn: 7:24
Well, that’s great.

Erin: 7:25
Do you make all your teams wear pink for every match?

Victoria: 7:30
No, no, and we’re not the type to color coordinate. Okay, we just go out there casual, have fun.

Erin: 7:39
Good, because some people don’t like that color, but it’s definitely a significant color for breast cancer awareness month. I love that color. I do actually love it, and Erin even when we play.

Carolyn: 7:51
Erin doesn’t like it when I wear pink or bright pink. It’s bright pink, right, erin? Right, she’s asked me not to wear that when we play against each other because it bothers her a little bit.

Erin: 8:00
Yeah, when we play singles, because Carolyn moves so much, I’m just looking at this beautiful, bright color and not paying attention to the tennis ball. And then she’s beating me in singles all the time.

Carolyn: 8:09
That’s not true. That’s not true actually.

Victoria: 8:12
Well, bright pink was actually my favorite color even before I had breast cancer. So now it’s good and I do have a lot of pink and I do wear it. I like it.

Erin: 8:21
Yeah, and she’s wearing it right now. I know people can’t see?

Victoria: 8:24
Yes, I am.

Erin: 8:25
She’s wearing a bright pink shirt right now.

Carolyn: 8:27
I love it it looks great on you. Victoria, were you worried about after all your treatments? Were you worried about coming back and playing tennis at all? I know some women have to worry about lymphedema and other issues. Were you worried about that?

Victoria: 8:43
I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to worry about that. So my breast cancer was caught at the early stages. So everyone, if you haven’t gotten mammograms, please get that, because really if it’s caught early then it’s the best situation, the best scenario, and so I didn’t have many complications. The only thing I had to deal with was scar tissue, and so actually tennis helped with that, because I’m moving my arms, I’m lifting my arms, so I’m helping to break up that scar tissue and keep it loose. But I do have other friends who have had challenges and concerns with lymphedema. But really with, especially with the tennis for life, you do what you can, you move when you can. If you have to take a break, you take a break. It’s all to the every person’s ability and so and there’s no pressure, so we’re just out there to have fun and to keep moving. And one of the better things about tennis for life also is that I’m really glad when somebody who has never picked up a racket before comes and joins our tennis clinics. So we have pros who teach our clinics and it is hard for them because they could have somebody who has never played before to a 4.0 player or somebody. So they do have to adjust to having different skill levels, but it’s such a wonderful way for people to be introduced to the sport and to have, like I said before, it’s, no pressure.

Carolyn: 10:13
Yeah, and I was just going to say I really think it’s important or I’ve heard it’s very important to exercise after you’ve had all those treatments with breast cancer. So I think this is a great way you can get out, you can exercise, you can be with a group. I mean it just seems like such a great group and a great experience to be involved in.

Victoria: 10:30
It is, and one of the things I realized after I had the breast cancer and had my surgery is that the better fit we are, the better we’re able to handle any side effects or anything that happens down the line. And so I mean I’ve always tried to be healthy, but after I had breast cancer, that’s when I really focused on trying to improve my health, and tennis was one way I did that.

Erin: 10:58
Since we have listeners nationwide, can you tell us about other programs that you know about that are similar to Tennis for Life?

Victoria: 11:06
There’s actually the Tennis for Life programs. Where it started is in New York and New Jersey, so they have a similar paradigm where they have tennis clinics and it’s free for all their members, and so we’re actually the third location in North Carolina, in this country, for Tennis for Life.

Carolyn: 11:24
And Victoria, can you also tell us your most memorable moment on the court?

Victoria: 11:29
One of the ones that I’m really proud of is that my partner and I were playing doubles and we had we won one set. The other team won the other set. So we’re in a third set tiebreaker and in that tiebreaker we were down one, five and then it got to be two, seven, but we were able to come back to make it seven, seven, eight, seven and then we won at ten, eight. So I was really proud of the way that we just hung in there and got each point and was able to win the tiebreaker.

Erin: 12:09
Yeah, tiebreakers are super stressful, so how did you handle that stress?

Victoria: 12:14
Well, it’s really more of just keeping focus on that point, taking it one point at a time. I’ve learned that I have to forget about the prior points and just focus on the current point, taking it one at a time. And I learned this a few several years ago, or more than over 30 years ago, and my daughter no-transcript had a liver transplant. She had a life-saving liver transplant when she was eight months old and we learned at that time that you had to take things one day at a time. Things were really it was stressful and she had complications, and there were moments when I mean it was literally one hour at a time, one minute at a time, and so that really taught me some lifelong lessons about being able to handle stress. And so I keep reminding myself whenever I’m in a stressful situation, that is, you know, focus on the moment, for the things that happened before you can’t dwell on them. Use it to learn, to help improve what happens next. But keep focusing one step at a time and, like on the tennis court, one point at a time. And I find that tennis is a really stress-relaxer. I use tennis to help me relax, to help me clear my mind, just anytime being on the court. I mean that’s a win for me.

Carolyn: 14:00
We really appreciate Victoria coming on the podcast. Victoria mentioned that the clinics and activities are free because they host an annual fundraiser each year called Queen or King of the Court, and we’ve included a link in our show notes to the website in case anyone would like to donate. I’ve been going through breast cancer treatments this past year and so many people have contacted me to tell me about tennis for life, and I just signed up today. If you are aware of any other similar organizations throughout the country, please let us know. You can message us on our website, which is SecondServePodcastcom. So if you are enjoying our podcast, we would greatly appreciate a five-star rating wherever you listen to podcasts to help others find it. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the court soon.

Tennis Warehouse’s Tip of the Week

We hope you’ve heard some of our Tennis Warehouse’s Tip of the Week segments with Michelle. Use discount code SECONDSERVE in your Tennis Warehouse cart and get $20 off clearance apparel orders over $100. Clearance apparel can be found here!

For more in-depth discussions about gear, check out Michelle’s Talk Tennis podcast.

We hosted Michelle for several great podcast episodes too. You can find them here:

Ep. 118: Gear Talk with Tennis Warehouse’s Playtester, Michelle (Ep. 1)
Ep. 119: Gear Talk with Tennis Warehouse (Ep. 2)
Ep. 120: Gear Talk with Tennis Warehouse (Ep. 3)