Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 3/5/13
Even the most physically fit of us are vulnerable to the worst of health. That’s why the list of cancer survivor athletes keep growing. It’s a grim reality- cancer is all around us. It seems like everyone has someone close to him or her who’s been stricken with this illness. However, on the plus side, we also know that cancer survivors walk among us; many from the proverbial arena of professional sports. NHL legend Mario Lemieux from the Pittsburgh Penguins is the first that comes to mind. In recent years, a cadre of Boston athletes have been hit by the plague of the 20th century all the same time: Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, New England Patriots rookie OL Marcus Cannon and Boston College star LB Mark Herzlich, now with the New York Giants. All are cancer survivor athletes today. As of last night, I am in remission for the third time, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is now gone from my body! Let’s hope the 3rd time’s a charm as this is my third battle with the illness; hopefully the last. I teared up in My Dr’s office. Of course, this is great news, but I’m far from 100% physically. I certainly have never been an elite athlete, but I did play defensive back for the Stagg Chargers in high school. So I have the big thing in common with the people on this list, just not the other thing. Here’s a list (which I further expanded) from a Medical Blog who collaborated with me. These 12 players and 1 coach triumphantly defeated cancer as we cheered them on. Certainly most athletes are role models, but these guys and girls — just a handful of the many cancer survivor athletes  — exhibited traits everyone should emulate. For obvious reasons, we left Lance Armstrong off the list 13 cancer survivor athletes Mario Lemieux, Hodgkin’s lymphoma Unquestionably one of the best hockey players to ever lace up the skates, Lemieux’s health was his most fierce rival. During his career, he battled chronic back pain, chronic tendinitis, a spinal disc herniation, and most daunting, Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Diagnosed during the 1992-93 season, in which he was on pace to eclipse the single-season goal and points records, he was sidelined for two months as he underwent aggressive radiation treatments. Incredibly, he played on the last day of the treatments, scoring a goal and tallying an assist against the Flyers. The most famous of all cancer survivor athletes not named Lance Armstrong; who was left off this list for obvious reasons. Saku Koivu, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Most 26-year-old athletes are entering the primes of their careers — Koivu, instead, simply wanted to stay alive. As with Lemieux and many other players in the intensely physical sport of hockey, he constantly battled injuries, which, in a way, may have prepared him for his bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While on a flight to the U.S. from Finland, he experienced tremendous stomach pain and vomiting — clear signs that something wasn’t right. As a result, he received aggressive treatment with radiation and drugs, causing him to lose significant amounts of weight and energy. With the motivation provided by the support of fellow athletes who endured the disease, he managed to return before the end of the 2001-02 season. He helped the Canadiens reach the playoffs, and played the best hockey of his career — to that point — the following season. John Cullen, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma The length at which a cancer patient is required to fight the disease varies. Cullen’s harrowing 18-month battle included numerous peaks and valleys, none of which disrupted his focus. Initially, a baseball-sized tumor was found in his chest, but chemotherapy treatments eliminated it in just a few months. Because cancer cells were still present in his body, he sat out the 1997-98 season to continue his fight. During that time, he suffered cardiac arrest — needing a defibrillator to revive him — and he later received a bone marrow transplant, which severely weakened him. His hockey career wasn’t over, however. When he was declared cancer free, he trained for a comeback, eventually signing with the Lightning. Jessica Breland, Hodgkin’s lymphoma It’s difficult not to concede that women are the stronger humans. Breland is proof, as she too successfully defeated Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma while she was just 21-years-old. A student at the North Carolina at the time, she spent six months receiving chemotherapy treatments, missing the entire 2009-10 season. The Tar Heels leading scorer and rebounder in 2008-09 returned for her redshirt senior season, performing well enough garner a selection in the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx, which traded her to the New York Liberty. Edna Campbell, breast cancer Breast cancer in the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women. Most of us personally know a woman who has dealt with the disease, whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance. Campbell certainly touched the lives of her teammates and fans as she battled the disease during her fourth season in the league. Incredibly, she continued to play through her treatments, serving as inspiration to the many women in her situation. Through the years, the WNBA has had a close relationship with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, utilizing its players to promote awareness of the disease. Campbell became the league’s national spokesperson for the effort, a job she embraced. Brett Butler, throat cancer A former chewer of tobacco, Butler was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsils during the latter of stages of his accomplished Major League career. After having a tonsil removed due to what the doctors thought was an infection, it was found to be cancerous, and he was forced to sit out while undergoing intensive treatment. Sidelined in May, he returned in September, finishing the season in which he encountered the biggest obstacle of his life. The 39-year-old went on to play one more season in the Majors. Andres Galarraga, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Coming off of three consecutive seasons in which he hit 40 or more homeruns, Galaragga was enjoying the greatest success of his baseball career. However, just prior to the 1999 season, he experienced nagging back pain that wouldn’t go away. It turned out to be non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he missed the entire season as he underwent chemotherapy treatment. On Opening Day in 2000, he returned to hit a game-winning homerun, setting the tone for an unexpectedly successful season in which he made his fifth career All-Star appearance and won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award. Jon Lester, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma In 2006, the Red Sox prospect earned a promotion to the big leagues, but his rookie season was disrupted as he was faced with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. During a late-season game, he was scratched from a start due to a sore back, which he thought was caused by a car accident that occurred a month earlier. Enlarged lymph nodes and subsequent tests indicated it was more serious, and he received chemotherapy treatments during the offseason. Fortunately for Lester, it was gone before the 2007 season, enabling him to work his way back up to the bigs. The payoff was huge, as he won the clinching game of the World Series. Mark Herzlich, bone cancer Herzlich’s senior season at Boston College was supposed to be an audition for the NFL — a chance to catapult himself into the first round. In the previous season, the linebacker made major strides, receiving First-team All-American honors. Seemingly indestructible, he shocked Eagles fans when he revealed prior to the season that he had Ewing’s sarcoma. Just a few weeks into the season, and four months after the diagnosis, he declared that he was cancer free. He then focused on preparing for the 2010 season — he eventually started all 13 games and recorded 65 tackles. He was signed by the Giants before the 2011 NFL season, and he remains on the team’s 53-man roster.        10. Anthony Rizzo, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma When Rizzo, an MLB super-prospect and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, was removed from a minor league game in the sixth inning fueling rumors that he was called up to the major league club. Twitter went absolutely nuclear. This series of tweets by the Iowa Cubs official account was the core reactor. It shows you much Rizzo is supposed to be the Cubs survivor. 11. Katie Collier, Leukemia. Katie Collier played in the McDonald’s All-American game just weeks after finishing her final chemotherapy treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Collier actually played a high school varsity game with a central line in place and just hours after receiving  chemo treatment. 12. Marcus Cannon, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cannon, a ifth-round pick out of TCU, found out he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (strains of which are some of the deadliest cancers out there) just days before the  NFL Draft last in 2011 He was considered a second-round prospect prior to the news of his illness. So the situation caused his draft stock to drop a few rounds, and for him to lose out on some major money One of the scariest things about lymphoma is the way it emaciates you. I normally go about 178-185 lbs, but was whittled down to 154 (and size 29 pants) when I got sick the first time. Cannon, who played tackle in college but might convert to guard in the NFL, has job that’s all about bulk; acquiring it and keeping it. But he’s with the Pats today. 13. Chuck Pagano, Leukemia While battling the monstrous illness of leukemia, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano received a massive outpouring of public support. The Indiana statehouse included the Chuckstrong term in its Christmas lights, the term itself became a national trend, Colts cheerleaders and players shaved their heads in support of him. Pagano will return to the sidelines and coach for the first time since being diagnosed in September. Pagano published a letter in the Indianapolis Star, thanking the people of Indiana for their continued support. To help the Leukemia and Lymphoma society To donate to the american cancer society To volunteer in the fight against cancer go here Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of visitors. He also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker A Fulbright scholar, author and MBA, Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) The post 13 Famous Cancer Survivor Athletes: Lemieux, Lester, Herzlich and More appeared first on The Sports Bank.Net.
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