In a huge blow to the Philadelphia Eagles both on and off the field, the team announced today that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will be taking a leave of absence as he undergoes treatment for a cancerous tumor on his spine. Johnson has been the Eagles’ DC since 1999 and has been a huge part of the team’s success over the past decade.
(Shockingly, the guy on the right is the one who’s sick)
Nobody would’ve minded if the 68-year-old Johnson decided to retire when he learned his cancer had returned, but that’s not who he is. Johnson was in such pain that he could barely walk during the Eagles’ run to the NFC Championship game last season, but he forged ahead without complaint. And just in the last couple of weeks Johnson was at the team’s minicamp on a motorized scooter.
You might not know the name Adam Frey. No, this isn’t the author Oprah just apologized to. Adam is a 23-year-old Cornell wrestler whose life completely changed last March after he got into a one-car accident on his way to class. Shockingly, he was unhurt in what looked like a brutal crash. But the news he learned at the hospital afterward was far worse than any injury he could’ve sustained in the accident.
A CAT scan taken to make sure he didn’t have any internal bleeding revealed that he was walking around with several tumors on his lungs, kidneys, and liver. A guy who had never smoked or done drugs and had been in incredible shape his whole life had cancer. He’s been documenting his battle with the disease online at ADAMFREY.US for the past year, and his latest blog entry is heartbreaking to say the least.
Get your hankies out, folks, it’s time for a couple of touching human-interest stories from this week’s Super Bowl. The Steelers and Cardinals aren’t just going head-to-head on the field this week, they’re also matching up to see which teammate named Smith has endured the most recent terrible hearbreak.
In Arizona’s corner, there’s fullback Terrelle Smith, whose mother raised not only he and his five siblings but also as many as 22 other foster children at the same time. Smith’s selfless mom died last month after a long battle with breast cancer, just before getting to see her kid play in the Super Bowl. In Pittsburgh’s corner, there’s defensive end Aaron Smith, whose five-year-old son is battling leukemia as we speak.
Prepare for your heartsrings to be pulled after the jump.
Brand announced his illness via a statement at the end of the annual NCAA convention, which the cancer has prevented Brand from attending this year. The note was as professional as you would expect from an administrator, owing his absence to “attend[ing] to a medical condition,” which makes it sound like he had a checkup he couldn’t reschedule. But the statement didn’t dance around the issue; Brand said his prognosis was “not good.”
We’re obsessed with Paul Lukas’ UNI WATCH BLOG. Every day he’s got something in there worth discovering. Today, Lukas has a post on the joy(!) of cigarettes in sports. He’s got plenty of photographic evidence, including this bloody smashing SI cover of Dick Allen:
We’d love to have sat in on the SI editorial meeting that selected the opening sleeve for that issue. Then again, it probably was pretty boring, since the cancer stick probably never came up in the discussion. Read more…
On January 2, ESPN THE MAGAZINE published a tear-rending tale by Eric Adelson about a relationship between a cancer-stricken young boy and Steve Yzerman. If you don’t well up reading it, you aren’t breathing.
The boy, Braxton Davis, had battled a variety of cancer-related maladies. That is, according to his father Brant.
But after the piece was published, Adelson met up with Braxton’s mother, long-divorced from Brant, who revealed a deceit of breathtaking proportion.
Jeanne Zelasko isn’t going to let a little thing like thyroid cancer keep her from doing her job.
Tom Hoffarth of INSIDE SOCAL diagnoses that the Fox Sports reporter will do her duty covering the Cotton and Orange Bowls, despite the discovery of a bump on her gland. Doctors have told her that the growth is in its very early stages, so she’s suspending surgery until after the bowl season.
We can’t blame her for not wanting to miss out on the games, especially the the Kansas-Virginia Tech matchup in Miami. How could she resist the chubby charms of Mark Mangino?
Zelasko hopes her announcement will encourage others to keep an eye on their own health issues. For example, she suggests, “Routinely checking your thyroid is something you can do in traffic…unlike a breast exam that might get you a few odd looks.”
…but no shortage of volunteers to help. Or to take cell phone pics.
Zelasko is the second sportscaster in the past few days to reveal a personal cancer battle. Stuart Scott returned to ESPN on Friday, after a month-long absence while dealing with an intestinal illness.
Coincidentally, both anchors share the same agent - Jackie Harris of William Morris. Jeanne joked, “I told her we have to add her to the list of things that cause cancer.”
ESPN ANCHOR EXPECTED TO RETURN TO AIR FOR FRIDAY NIGHT NBA: ESPN viewers may have been wondering where Stuart Scott has been for the past few weeks. Well, it turns out the booyah braggadocio has been recovering from intestinal cancer.
The Worldwide Leader reports that Scott is expected to be back on the air Friday night, almost a month after falling off the schedule for falling ill.
Stuart underwent an emergency appendectomy in November, after getting sick right before a Steelers-Dolphins Monday Night game. (Watching Miami this season usually produces some kind of discomfort.)
However, during the surgery, doctors discovered some malignant tissue around Stuart’s appendix. So, Scott went back under the knife to get rid of the troublesome tissue. Although the docs believe they got all the bad stuff out, Stuart will be undergoing chemotherapy as a cautious measure.
Scott called the cancer news a “shocker”, but finds comfort in all the concern he’s received: “I can’t find the words to express how much I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers.”
Can’t find the words? Stuart Scott? We find that a little hard to believe.
But we wish Stu well, and hope his recovery stays as cool as the other side of the pillow.
BECKHAM WOWS AUSSIES WHILE SNUBBING CANCER KIDS: 80,000 Aussie fans got a kick out of seeing David Beckham on Tuesday, as the L.A. Galaxy star notched a goal in an exhibition match in Sydney.
Sadly, a group of young cancer survivors waiting to meet their favorite player didn’t get the chance. The SYDNEY MORNING HERALD reports that the soccer star blew by the cancer kids when he arrived at his hotel on Sunday.
A police escort had directed Beckham from the airport to the Star City Casino, where photographers and other throngs were waiting outside with the children. Beckham quickly flew from the car to inside the hotel, not stopping for anyone - including the kids.
Especially hurt was Emma Byers, a 14-year-old leukemia survivor who burst into tears when she missed her chance to present her hero with a toy kangaroo gift.
But Becks claims he never saw the children, and said he would never purposefully snub any sick kids. He added, “I’m more than willing to meet them wherever they want and at whatever time that they want.”
Emma’s mother said she was willing to accept Beckham’s explanation: “He’d just got off a plane, and just got out of a car, not knowing where he was. I’d like to think he’s a gentleman. I’m sure that if that’s what he says, that was the case.”