DAUPHIN -- Vic Peters is walking on water here this week.
Sure, it's frozen water, laid out in sheets, painted with rings.
But that doesn't make it any less of a miracle that the 1992 Brier champion is curling at the 2012 Safeway Manitoba Men's Curling Championship for what would be his fourth Manitoba men's title.
A lesser man would not be curling this week at this level. A lesser man would not be curling at all. Indeed, it would not be out of line to suggest a lesser man might not even be alive right now.
Since a diagnosis last summer, the 56-year-old Peters has been aggressively battling an aggressive cancer of his lymph nodes. There have been surgeries and chemotherapies and radiation treatments, the last one just two weeks ago.
There have been victories -- the cancer does not appear to have yet spread. But there have also been a litany of setbacks and difficult decisions along the way.
And so curling -- once so central in a Peters household where the father, son and a daughter have all played at the national level -- has taken a back seat this winter.
The elder Peters -- fatigued by all the treatments, his skin burned and blistered by all the radiation -- has curled competitively just twice prior to this week.
But one of those times came in the zone playdowns in December, where his team -- son Daley Peters is the vice-skip, Brendan Taylor is second and Kyle Werenich is lead -- won their provincials berth. And so there was the elder Peters a familiar sight once again Wednesday, out on the ice calling the game, making his shots and winning -- his opening game a 7-5 victory over Burntwood's Rae Hainstock.
This same team shocked everyone but themselves at last year's provincials, making it all the way to the 3 vs. 4 game before falling in an extra end to two-time provincial finalist Mike McEwen.
No one would be surprised this year if they went on a similar run. But there is one big difference between this year and last.
"It's bittersweet this year, for sure," Daley Peters said Wednesday. "We're thinking this is probably going to be the last time we curl together. And obviously, there's bigger things than that going on.
"I'm probably a little tighter than I should be. I probably want to try a little harder than I should -- and just play a little better. I think I just have to try and remember more to go out and have a little fun curling with the old man, then winning or losing."
In other words, with so many much more serious matters now in play, the challenge for the Peters men this week is to make the curling much less serious.
And that's not much a challenge against the backdrop of challenges the Peters family has already faced recently.
"I actually consider myself pretty lucky," Vic Peters said. "That's a tough cancer I have. Once it's in your lymph nodes like it was for me, it can really go.
"But so far, it's been contained. They've got everything they could see. And they've done scans, head to toe. So I feel fortunate, right now."
Peters had a similar cancer scare 30 years ago and beat it. He says that first experience changed him, taught him not to sweat the small stuff.
This time around, Peters says the stakes are much higher. "I didn't have kids or grandchildren the first time," says Peters, "and I'd really like to be around to enjoy more of that."
While there's nothing like the prospect of death to give a man perspective on life, Peters says the curling fires still burn bright for him this week.
"Daley's competitive like me -- we both really want to win. And we'll get mad at each other when things aren't going right," he says. "If that changes, then really there would be no point in playing competitively.
"Could this be my last time playing? Sure, very possibly. But that's OK too. That's the way things work. That's the way life evolves."
Peters says he has no illusions about just how hard it would be to win another provincial title this week in a field that boasts both the defending world champion in Jeff Stoughton and the world's top-ranked team in McEwen.
But then Peters has already done something just this side of miraculous this week, simply by being here at all.
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