“You have cancer”: three of the worst words in the English language.
Those three words will lead to the most pain you will ever experience. Those three words will make you cry yourself to sleep.
Those three words will also reveal massive amounts of strength and courage.
Those words are even more crushing when an athlete hears them, because that means there is a very good chance that not only their career will be over, but their dreams as well.
Cancer knocks every athlete down, but there are few that are able to get up before the count reaches ten and fight back until they win by T.K.O.
Arguably, the most famous athlete to be diagnosed with cancer and return to his sport is Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer on October 2, 1996. He was 25 years old and at the top of his game, when pain literally forced him off of his bike.
Upon going to the hospital, his doctor delivered the shocking news. Armstrong overcame nearly impossible odds and overcame cancer. Amazingly, three years after being diagnosed, Armstrong was back on the bike and back at the top of his game.
He went on to win the most competitive and decorated race in cycling, The Tour de France. He won this race not just once, but seven times in a row. Setting the record for most consecutive Tour de France wins.
Saku Koivu and Mario Lemieux, two of hockey’s biggest stars, both suffered different types of cancer.
Saku Koivu was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on September 6, 2001.
Koivu was expected to be out for the remainder of the year, but he somehow recovered and was back in the Montreal Canadians’ lineup before the end of the season.
Mario Lemieux announced that he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma on January 12, 1993. Lemieux’s story is even more incredible than Saku Koivu’s.
Super Mario, as called by fans, missed two months of play, but was scoring at such an unbelievable rate before he announced his condition, he was only twelve points behind the leader in the scoring race.
After he returned, it was like he was never gone, he continued scoring at a mind-boggling pace. He ended the year with 69 goals, 91 assists, and 160 points, finishing first in the scoring race.
Chris Lofton, a former SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year award-winner for Tennessee, was diagnosed with testicular cancer following the 2007 NCAA basketball season.
He elected to keep his condition a secret to all except Coach Bruce Pearl, teammate and roommate Jordan Howell, his parents, and a small number of university officials.
He underwent successful, and secret, radiation treatments and surgery and returned to the University of Tennessee for his final year of eligibility.
Jon Lester, a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, was diagnosed with a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma early September, 2006. His treatment was successful.
He then made his way back up through the minor league system and started his first game since the previous season against the Cleveland Indians. Lester pitched six innings and won the game.
On May 19, 2008 Jon Lester pitched the 18th no-hitter in Boston Red Sox history against the Kansas City Royals.
Hopefully, people will think of these people when they think of sports heroes.
It takes someone with an amazing amount of courage to even get through cancer, but to get through it and return to the top of their sport is absolutely incredible.
“You have cancer”: those three words can break your body, but they will never break your spirit.