Thursday, January 20

“Now I live the day to day, the present; what I previously postponed, I go and do”

His hands are the best in the history of Canarian tennis. Archipelago sport icon, Carla Suarez Navarro (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1988) will compete again in June at Roland Garros. This will not be another tournament in his career. And it is that she returns after overcoming a lymphoma detected in August 2020 that put everything in check for her. The goal, his last dream: to be at the Tokyo Olympics.

Not a year has passed since he announced his lymphoma, announced that he was returning to training and that he will play the next Roland Garros. How dizzying has your year been?

Amazing. From the pandemic to the sick; from treatment to discharge. It was very fast. I announced that 2020 was going to be my last sports year, but with everything that happened I didn’t want to end that way. As soon as I could, I started training and here we are ready to compete again.

Has the speed with which everything has gone given you space to assimilate and be aware of everything that was at stake?

Yes indeed. Despite the fact that everything has gone well, that it has been quite smooth, there were days that seemed eternal, where hours did not pass, especially when I had physical discomfort. But I repeat it again: I am lucky because my body reacted very well to the treatment. I could not be happier in that sense to be able to recover my normal life.

He said it here a few days after his cancer and repeated it in other interviews: “I have not been afraid.” Now that you look back, do you feel that fear?

No, neither. They are things that happen. There are a lot of people who go through things like that. The doctors gave me a lot of confidence from the beginning and from the first tests, everything evolved in my favor. I did not have time to be afraid of the disease and I do not live thinking that the lymphoma could return. I live from day to day and I don’t think fear will ever take hold of me.

Was living from day to day something you did before?

In the face of plans, sure. I had many projects in mind, many plans and, in that sense, I have slowed down a bit. Now I think I am launching myself a little more into adventure. What I previously postponed no longer, I go and do it. I do what I feel like doing at the moment.

Is that the best lesson you have learned from this trip?

Yes. Live the present, the day to day and savor every moment.

Why have you been so frank about your illness? What were you looking for?

It all came together. I had announced that 2020 was going to be my last year, the pandemic came, the tournaments were postponed, but Roland Garros and the US Open were for October. I was detected for lymphoma at the end of August and I had to give the tennis world a reason, explain why I was not going to be there. Throughout my career I have tried to take things from normality, tranquility and that was what I wanted to transmit with the disease. It was also a way of reporting how he was doing, how he was doing. I think that helps the people who are in the fight, who are going to start this fight. Unfortunately, this is a disease that will continue to suffer and I wanted to show that you could play sports, to show that it made me feel good. It was a way of carrying the disease naturally, which many people live with. And later because he received many expressions of affection. But, above all, to give it visibility because it is a very taboo subject nowadays.

The word cancer is still hard to pronounce.

Yes … and if I tell you the truth, even I avoid it. In the end it is something very hard, although in my case it has gone well, but it is a word that is related to suffering, to loss. I put myself in the shoes of people who suffer or are living it and I sense that it is an unpleasant word to hear or read.

What has been your recipe for optimism? At least, facing the outside, he has never lost his smile.

It goes with my personality, I have always been like that, from the naturalness. My mother [Loli Navarro] he can tell you. In these six months I have not had a bad day, a day of anger or sadness despite going through such a disease, I am like that. I suppose it is also because my body has reacted well, I felt lucky to have my doctors, because of the love I received, I could lead a relatively normal life. What it reflected was my state of mind, I never had to force anything.

On April 22, she announces that she is fully cured. How was that last consultation?

It is progressive. After the ‘chemo’, I had radiation therapy sessions that already dictate the number of sessions you have. I already knew it was going to end in April and the last one was a relief. I felt relief like never before. It was pretty simple, really. I sent a message to the WhatsApp group that I have with my parents and my brother and I already said that I would not have to return until the review in three months. I was discounting days and they knew it too. It was when I finished the ‘chemo’ that we really relieved ourselves because the radiotherapy was very good for me.

And from that WhatsApp message to the call from Ángel Víctor Torres, president of the Canary Islands, to inform him that he was awarded the Gold Medal. How was it?

I was in Madrid training and they called me from a number that I did not have recorded. Normally when this happens to me, I don’t pick it up. And that’s what I did, I didn’t catch it [risas]. Above they called me several times. They got in touch with my press officer and he already told me to take it, that they were going to give me news. I already spoke with him for a while and the truth is that he took me by surprise because I was not expecting it. It is all a pride.

Lead a life outside. Do you feel magua for having been so long away from here?

Evidently. I would have liked to live much longer at home, enjoy and grow much more in the Canary Islands, but the circumstances turned out like this.

Do your eyes chirp when the plane returns to Gando or that doesn’t happen to you anymore?

Already when I am packing my suitcase and I know that I am going to the airport, the mood is happier. It is the suitcase that I like to pack the most because it means disconnecting, being at ease, that is the feeling that comes to me.

How much guilt does being Canarian have to forge her personality the way she has?

Probably quite a lot. Especially in the quiet. I have traveled a lot, I have spent a life abroad, but I feel fortunate to be a Canarian, to have grown up there. It is a luxury, a pleasure that we all have and we cannot complain. The personality is forged during childhood, but also with everything that you discover in the world. I have very happy memories of all that time.

He slipped that he would like to return to the Canary Islands. What plans do you have if that return occurs?

Yes I do. Obviously I do not know when it will be, but I will go, I will go a lot, I do not know if definitely or not. But in the long run, my idea is to be on the island

At the moment it seems that his restaurant ‘La Carlota’ is doing well, succeeding with chef Richard Díaz in ‘Gran Canaria I like it’.

Yes, but I have more things on my mind. I would like to be away from tennis for a while because I consider that there are more things in life. I have this project in Gran Canaria and we try to carry it out. Also a few more things, but I would like to do something more supportive, more humane. But I have to order it when I’m done playing and it can be focused only on those issues.

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Do you feel loved and respected in the Canary Islands?

Very much, both. I feel the affection of the people and also the spaces and moments. Many times when I go down the street with my parents, they stop me more for them than for me, much more than when I go alone [se ríe]. That is also appreciated.

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