Marshall Winer got off to a rough start Tuesday night in the AMF Woodlake Lanes “Guys and Dolls” League in Woodland Hills.
Winer was toiling along with a mere 61 score after rolling four luckless splits in his first five frames. But Winer staged a furious comeback, racking up three straight strikes at one point to end with a highly impressive 168, about 10 points above his average.
Winer may have his ups and down bowling, but one thing remains constant in his game: Winer’s attitude is never down.
The 73-year-old Granada Hills resident is always smiling.
Winer is a cancer survivor who relishes life. His joyous nature and good humor are on display from the moment he shows at the bowling alley to the moment he leaves. His team ranks first in league play, but Winer cheers just as enthusiastically for his opponents’ good fortune as he does for his teammates’.
He kibbitzes with his fellow bowlers all the time, using his self-deprecating humor (“Whenever someone asks what my handicap is, I say it’s me.”) But Winer knows when to turn serious — at least for the few seconds he picks up his ball and throws his sharp-breaking curve skidding toward the pocket.
What’s remarkable is that Winer is now compiling his best scores in more than 40 years of bowling.
“I get a lot of help from my teammates,” Winer said. “Ray (Plasse) always encourages me. ‘Walk straight and move over five boards,’ he says. I’m really good at listening. If I try to do it myself, I blow it. I’m just really concentrating.
“I’m bowling with some real good bowlers (including Jerry Simmons and Shawn Zaer) and it’s an incentive to do the best that I can. I told the guys five years ago when I joined the team that I’ll contribute, but I won’t be a hero. And I’ll try not to let them down.”
On Tuesday, Winer sported a shirt that read “Survivor” on his back. Winer said “the survivor thing is the minor of the health issues.” Winer’s “minor issue” referred to his chronic lymphocytic leukemia that was discovered 10 years ago and has been in remission.
In 2002, things became much more serious. Winer was found to have colon cancer, which resulted in surgery to remove “a chunk of the colon.” He also had chemotherapy for three months. More problems ensued. The colon cancer later moved to his liver; it was successfully treated. Then the cancer moved to his lung. Again, the cancer was removed.
At one point, the chemotherapy infected his blood and a hospice nurse was called in. Eventually, his blood cleared the toxins.
Surgery was needed another time when a blood spot on the middle of his back was found to be a melanoma. And Winer has needed surgery for three hernias — an off-shoot of all his treatments.
The good news is that all the tests in the last three years have come out clean for Winer. Now, Winer can focus on his bowling and it shows.
Winer has proved especially sharp with his second ball, converting a mutitude of spares. “Strikes I feel are luck,” said Winer, who prides himself on converting spares.
Teammate Simmons, a Santa Clarita resident who drives Winer to the bowling matches, notes that Winer “always says he just wants to help the team. That’s his mantra. He’s just really dedicated to helping the team. He’s the kind of guy who helps out a lot of people. He and his wife both do a lot of charity stuff.”
Winer’s wife of 49 years, Susan is a breast cancer survivor. The two have taken part twice in the Revlon Run & Walk for women’s cancer research. Susan also took part this year in a fund-rasing, half-marathon lymphona and leukemia event in San Diego. And there at the finish line was a cheering Marshall to greet Susan when she finished.
“He’s always been supportive of anything I’ve been attracted to doing,” Susan said.
She said her husband’s upbeat ways have “been his nature from the beginning. He’s taught me to be that way. It’s hard to think negatively when he displays so much enthusiasm.”
Susan said that her husband played senior softball for more than 10 years before he broke his elbow a year and a half ago. “He was always the cheerleader, the pat-on-the-back guy,” she said.
Now, Winer looks forward to getting together with his bowling teammates on Tuesday nights. “One is the competition,” Winer said, “and two is the camaraderie of the team.”
Bowling, however, isn’t Winer’s only pastime. Winer added that he discovered in his 50s a few new pursuits; he became involved in painting, pottery and ceramics — hobbies he still enjoys. He said his new outlets gave him incentive to fight through his health issues.
“There are just too many things to do,” Winer said, “and I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up. I just didn’t want to give up.”