PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pitt's star running back James Conner is facing a new fight to return to the football field.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, Conner revealed he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"When I heard those words—'You have cancer'—I admit I was scared," Conner said. "But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win."
Despite the diagnosis, Conner has vowed to return to the field.
"I will play football again. I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back," Conner said.
The diagnosis came after doctors discovered a tumor on his neck and a significantly-sized one in his chest.
"I know there are so many people in the world who were told by their doctors this week that they also have cancer. I want them to know that together we can—and will—beat cancer," Conner said.
Conner broke the news to his teammates Friday morning. Head coach Pat Narduzzi and several teammates attended the press conference to show their support.
"Know this: James Conner will not face this challenge alone. We are all going to be right beside him every step of the way. And the day that he is declared cancer free, we will all celebrate like we do after one of his patented touchdown runs. James has never backed down from an opponent and we all know this is a battle he will win," Narduzzi said. "Cancer started the fight. James is going to finish it."
"When I heard I had cancer, I was a little scared, but fear is a choice and I chose not to fear cancer," Conner said. "We're going to fight it, and we're going to beat this thing."
Dr. Stanley Marks of UPMC's Cancer Center explained his condition.
"He has some lymph node enlargement in his neck as well as in his chest. He has what we refer to as a medial spinal mass in his chest which is very common in Hodgkin's disease," Marks said.
Still, he is optimistic.
"I know God would never bring me to something He can't bring me through," Conner said.
The star running back from Erie, who has given his time to inspire kids and work with charitable organizations, had a lot to look forward to, just learning that the knee injury that kept him off the field had just healed. His mother was emotional at the announcement.
"Of course you can imagine, as a mom, my reaction when I first heard it," said his mother, Kelly Patterson. "He was like, 'mom, fear is a choice, let's do this. I'm just ready to get it done and keep it moving.'"
His doctor says the cure rate is 85 to 95 percent and his physical shape will help him.
"I have encouraged him to work out to tolerance," Marks said. "I think it's important to continue to work out and after the first couple of weeks of treatment, he'll be able to get back to weightlifting. Right now, it wouldn't be a good idea."
He'll undergo chemotherapy, beginning next Tuesday, for six months.
How soon could he play?
"If he starts next week, he'll be done in six months, and then there will be some recuperative period, but hopefully by next season he'll be able to be on the field," Marks said.
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