Who is Mark Herzlich?
Mark Herzlich is a popular and powerful linebacker for the Boston College football team. He is well known for his hard hits, and was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the Atlantic Coast Conference. If you saw any college football coverage in the last year, you’re likely to recognize him. He’s the intimidating linebacker in the scarlet jersey known for his wacky face paint and bone crushing plays.
Boston College announced yesterday that their star linebacker has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, known as Ewing’s sarcoma. Ewing’s sarcoma is a malignant tumor often found in bone or soft tissue. The cancer is common among male teenagers, usually found in the pelvic area.
According to Mark Herzlich’s father, who was interviewed by ESPN and other sports news outlets after the news broke, herzlich’s cancer has not metastasized.
In an email to a Boston College fan website, Sandy Herzlich (Mark’s father) had this to say. “As you can imagine, the whole family is in a state of shock. We received very positive news that the cancer has not spread beyond its initial source. The recovery and success rate when the cancer hasn’t spread is much higher.” In fact, patients with Ewing’s sarcoma who catch it before it has metastasized have an 80% survival rate after five years, a relatively good diagnosis for a dangeorus cancer like Ewing’s.
Herzlich, who is 21, has returned to Pennsylvania from Boston to be with his family and to consult with oncologists and other doctors to determine his treatment options.
In his statement to the media, Mark Herzlich said “This past week, I got some news nobody wants to hear. After undergoing some tests to determine the cause of some pain I had been experiencing in my leg, I learned that I have Ewing’s sarcoma. Obviously, I was shocked. I had been extremely focused on preparing for my senior year 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.”
Ewing’s sarcoma is a form of bone cancer that strikes an estimated 250 people annually in the United States. It shows up first with an ache or a steady pain, occasionally with a lump or swelling in the pelvic area. Patients with the disease typically undergo chemotherapy and may also require surgery or radiation treatment. The effects of Chemotherapy would significantly slow down an athlete for a matter of months or even a year.
Herzlich’s statement went on to say “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 concerns. Together, we will fight this and win.”
According to sports medicine experts, an athlete’s ability to return to competition after cancer is mostly determined by the size of the tumor, which is the factor that determines the extent of surgery and treatment. If the cancerous lesion is not too big and it’s not threatening to put a fracture in the leg, doctors might not have to take any radical steps that would limit an athelete’s career. But patients with larger malignancies face the prospect of having more bone and muscle removed as well as large amounts of radiation treatment that typically cause stiffness. Though we don’t know the size of Herzlich’s tumor, it is common for Ewing’s tumors to be the size of a fist. They can grow as large as a football or basketball.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 238-pound Herzlich, who has been in the starting lineup since his arrival on the BC campus three years ago, was coming off his best season yet. He was a first-team All-America selection and led the Boston College Eagles with 110 tackles and 8 pass deflections. Mark Herzlich was tied for the team lead with 6 interceptions, and also racked up 2 forced fumbles, recovering both of them. Herzlich was injured during the early part of spring drills last month, though some are speculating that he was sidelined because of the pain in his pelvic area, which would later be diagnosed as the consequence of Ewing’s sarcoma.
When the pain in his legs and back wouldn’t subside, Herzlich and his family became concerned and visited doctors. Herzlich told new Boston College coach Frank Spaziani of the diagnosis Wednesday night.