Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Linebacker Sacks Ewing's Sarcoma: Because of His Passion for the Game of Football, Herzlich Passed on the Surgery and Began a Grueling Seven-Month Routine of Chemo and Radiation

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Linebacker Sacks Ewing's Sarcoma: Because of His Passion for the Game of Football, Herzlich Passed on the Surgery and Began a Grueling Seven-Month Routine of Chemo and Radiation

Article excerpt

Ewing's Sarcoma ("ES") is a very rare and highly aggressive form of bone cancer that forms from a certain kind of cell in bone or soft tissue surrounding the bone. It occurs most often in adolescents, especially boys ages 10 to 20, and is the second most common primary bone tumor (originating in bone cells) in children. ES accounts for only one percent of all childhood cancers and, although it can strike an individual at any age, its occurrence in adults older than 30 is exceedingly rare.

ES tumors are normally found in the bones of the arms and legs, or in the bones of the back or head as well as in the chest, trunk, or pelvis. If detected early enough, before it metastasizes and spreads to other organs, ES can be treated successfully in half to three quarters of cases.

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The American Cancer Society reports that, with current treatment, the overall five-year survival rate for patients with Ewing tumors that are still localized when they are first found is around 70 percent. When the cancer has already spread when it is diagnosed, the five-year survival rate is about 15 percent to 30 percent. The survival rate is slightly better if the cancer has only spread to the lungs as opposed to having reached other organs.

BLINDSIDED BY ES

Mark Herzlich, now age 27, was a 6' 4", 244-pound star linebacker at Boston College (coincidentally, the alma mater of your beloved columnist), when he was diagnosed with ES in his left thigh bone in May of 2009. He had just finished a season with the BC Eagles in which he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Defensive Player of the Year with 110 tackles and six interceptions in his junior year at BC.

Herzlich announced the diagnosis in a May 14, 2009 press release in which he stated: "Obviously, I was shocked. I had been extremely focused on preparing for my senior season at Boston College and for life beyond that. Now, I must channel all that energy into facing my toughest opponent yet, and that is exactly what I will do ... At this point, I do not know what this means for my football future, but I am determined to rid my body of this disease so that I can put that uniform back on. Thank you in advance for your prayers and concern. Together, we will fight this and win."

Herzlich's medical options were limited, and the choices he was confronted with frightening. His dream of a career in the NFL seemed unattainable.

FOURTH AND LONG

After a biopsy confirmed ES, Herzlich began a regimen of aggressive chemotherapy which fortunately shrunk his tumor dramatically. …

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