POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 18, 2010
Kelly Majam laughed before she said anything.
Then someone asked what is a throwaway question 99.9 percent of the time, merely a conversation starter. This was that one out of a thousand when it meant something, meant everything.
"How are you?"
"Very good," she replied. No hesitation ... yet unforced, in the enthusiastic voice for which she is known.
Nothing remarkable about that, you say. Things aren't just good for Majam, they're great, right? She was just feted at the ESPYs. She led the University of Hawaii to the Women's College World Series last spring. She's a great student-athlete at the top of her game with three more seasons to dominate.
Given the circumstances, that routine exchange resounded like one of the nation-leading 30 home runs Majam blasted.
She knocked it out of the park.
With those two words, Majam told us exactly what we wanted to hear yesterday under the shady tree near the Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
The key phrases were all in the release handed to us: successful surgery ... cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes ... working out with the softball team this fall ... resuming practice.
But to hear it directly from her: "Very good," in a strong, confident, convincing tone -- well, considering what Majam's been through the past few weeks, she's saying a lot.
THE LUMP in her throat at the WAC tournament in Las Cruces, N.M., had nothing to do with nerves. Especially on the softball field, Majam is immune to anxiety. This was a literal lump, one that made it hard for her to swallow.
"I thank God for me being in pain," she said.
That was in May. In June, the pain disappeared amid the adrenaline and euphoria of UH's run to the Women's College World Series.
She did the smart thing upon her return home and went to her doctor, who referred her to a specialist. In July, she underwent a biopsy, leading to the cancer diagnosis and then surgery to remove her thyroid.
That was less than three weeks ago.
Yesterday she spoke of a surgeon cutting her neck ("the scar looks really great") and the challenge of radiation treatment still to come. She did it in the same manner she'd tell us about what kind of pitch she hit for a homer or how the Wahine won or lost a game -- with intelligence, cheerfulness and poise.
Not that she wasn't afraid.
"It was definitely a shock. ... No one wants to hear that word. ... I definitely was scared."
She had to deal with the unknown -- that time of despair between the phone call when the doctor says I must give you this information in person and the receiving of the dreaded verdict.
Then the relief of the successful surgery with the great news that the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes.
You heard about that 78-year-old man who rode a roller coaster 90 times the other day? He's got nothing on Majam.
IF SHE seems almost too relaxed, maybe it's because this is not her first brush with mortality.
About four years ago, Majam, was on the way to a softball tournament when the family car was rammed by a drunk driver going 100 mph.
"We went over the median and into an embankment," she said. Majam, her father and little sister were shaken up but not seriously injured. "We were very lucky."
So was Hawaii, when she picked UH. After an unrelated knee injury kept her out of action in 2009, she exploded onto the islands' sports scene this year, quickly becoming one of the state's most dynamic and popular athletes.
With all the ups and downs, her spiritual faith remains unshaken -- if anything, it's stronger.
"I feel like God has put me in a place in the limelight," she said. "I feel he's using me in a different way. He's putting me in places where I've been getting attention for some reason."
Whatever your beliefs, it's easy to see Kelly Majam's positive attitude is incurable. And, hopefully, contagious.