“I am more focused on what I want to achieve in life and the direction I am headed. I fought the fight. I’ve beaten the odds. I am a champion.”
As a baseball player, my idea of a champion was someone who won the World Series, someone with a big championship ring clustered with diamonds and gold on his finger. However, that vision has changed and I now know that true champions are not only defined by their World Series ring.
Champions prevail over the unexpected. Last November, as a result of a common accident, a slip in the shower, I suffered a concussion. To everybody’s considerable surprise, an MRI revealed a small tumor in my brain. Surgery followed a week later, and the tumor was completely removed, but when the surgeon came into my room he threw me another curve. The tumor was cancerous, a medulloblastoma, and I was told I would need to undergo a year of radiation and chemotherapy treatments at one of the only medical centers in the country that could treat my unique condition. “OK, the tumor was removed so I don’t have cancer anymore,” was my first reaction. I had to stay positive.
Champions overcome challenges and emerge stronger. Going through the radiation was the most difficult and life disrupting part of the process; moving to Boston for two months, getting to the hospital every morning for a thirty-minute treatment, and constantly fighting nausea and fatigue. It was difficult staying current with my AP and Honors class work, but I managed. Getting through the radiation prepared me for the months of specialized, hospital-based chemotherapy that I have been going through since April; three cycles, each lasting about ten weeks.
Champions need a strong support team to succeed. I have a great team around me and I would not have overcome this challenge without them. My family, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses, teachers and coaches have all played a huge part in my recovery. I’ve learned how much my family and friends mean to me and to appreciate everyone’s contributions.
Athletic performance has always been a motivating factor in my life. I have participated competitively in several varsity sports as a starter, and I know that performing at a high level requires commitment to practice, painstaking training, and coaching that combines instruction and motivation.
Last spring, however, due to my cancer treatments, I was unable to join my high school baseball teammates in the way I had expected and, although I was prevented from participating as a player, I was invited to become an assistant to the Coach in managing the team.
As a player, I had concentrated on my own performance. Being an assistant coach, however, changed my focus, and primary goal, to help develop and enhance the skills and performance of my teammates. Assisting the players in their preparation and workouts, and the Coach in his administrative duties, was new and exciting. My involvement was not only rewarding because the team advanced to the New York State championships, but the tremendous positive feedback and support I got from my teammates for my efforts was especially exhilarating.
In the short term, my goal is to return to the field as a player. However, my experience has given me a new viewpoint, and a longer-term direction; working in the field of sport management, possibly by taking an active role in the development of individual players, player representation, becoming involved in team management or the larger business of franchise operations.
A year ago, my life took a turn and, while my own athletic performance was put on hold, I have discovered a career path that can also keep me in the game from a different and equally important perspective. Attending college and attaining a degree in Sport Management will be very important and instrumental in helping me to reach that goal.
Some people experience difficult situations and are subsequently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They find it difficult to get past their experience and move on. Others go through equally harrowing ordeals and emerge stronger. There’s a new term for this, Post Traumatic Growth. I always thought I was a strong person, but having cancer really opened my eyes, and now I know I am a strong and capable person.
I haven’t yet won the World Series and, although I do have a large collection of hospital bracelets, I don’t have the big ring. I have, however, overcome something I recognize as a huge challenge with a positive attitude and a great team around me, and I have grown stronger as a result. I am more focused on what I want to achieve in life and the direction I am headed. I fought the fight. I’ve beaten the odds. I am a champion.
If you would like to help Dean and other children battling cancer, donate today!