Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Conner Plans to Craft an Uplifting Story

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Conner Plans to Craft an Uplifting Story

Article excerpt

A wise person once said it is not your circumstances, it is your attitude.

If that's true - and I believe it is - Pitt running back James Conner will beat cancer.

That was my second thought Friday after Conner announced he has Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes.

"I choose to not fear cancer, I choose to fight it," Conner said, immediately turning a sad story into an uplifting one.

"I will win."

Remarkable poise for a kid, 20.

Amazing attitude.

Tremendous inspiration, not just for those who are sick, but for all of us.

My first thought was that we've had far too many news conferences like this. Last fall came word Pascal Dupuis had a life-threatening blood clot in his lung and Olli Maatta had thyroid cancer. In February 2014, the Penguins announced Kris Letang had a stroke. Even local high school athletes have been touched by serious illness in the past few years. Canon-McMillan's Luke Blanock was diagnosed in December 2013 with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare cancer that attacks the bones and surrounding tissue. Aliquippa's DiMantae Bronaugh was diagnosed last summer with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

It's horrible when anyone gets that kind of diagnosis. It's especially troubling when it happens to children. It's also jarring when young athletes are involved. They are in great physical condition. They are supposed to be indestructible.

We know better, of course.

Go to January 1993.

It was the most surreal news conference I've attended. Mario Lemieux, one of the two best hockey players in the world, talked about having Hodgkin lymphoma. He was 27 at the time.

"When the doctors gave me the news, I could hardly drive home because of the tears, and [I was] crying the whole day," Lemieux said. "That certainly was the toughest day of my life."

Lemieux didn't just beat his cancer. He had the final of his 22 radiation treatments on the morning of March 2, 1993, took a flight across the state and played for the Penguins that night against the Philadelphia Flyers, getting a goal and an assist in a 5-4 loss. Talk about an uplifting story. Even the notoriously brutal Flyers fans gave him a standing ovation. …

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