Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Against all odds, Herzlich in Super Bowl

By ESPNBoston.com

ESPNNY.com Ian O'Connor writes a heart-tugging story on Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, who beat cancer while at Boston College and now finds himself in the Super Bowl. It's worth 15 minutes of your time to read this feel-good tale. Here's an excerpt:

Mark needed only two hours to win Round 1 from cancer. He came downstairs and announced, "Don't worry about it. I'll beat this thing."

Two days later the Herzlichs learned the cancer hadn't spread. The linebacker had taken Round 2.

Six months of chemo followed, 50 cycles of radiation, a drill put through the center of Mark's femur, and a titanium rod inserted for support. Oh, and in the middle of it all Mark took one high-stakes gamble most doctors didn't want him to take.

He had a choice of surgery to remove a portion of his femur, ending any hope of a football comeback, or radiation treatments regarded as no sure thing.

"Three or four doctors said they would absolutely not do radiation on me," Mark said, "and would absolutely not put a rod through my femur because the cancer would spread and I would die within six months.

"But in order to be the person I wanted to be again, I had to be able to do things like run around and play with kids in the backyard or go play football. And that's the choice I made."

It took its toll. Barb couldn't sleep or eat; a friend bought her a case of Ensure to help her stem the weight loss. Mark did weight and cardio work in the gym but lost definition and strength. He endured grueling physical therapy sessions, including body massages that he said resulted in "probably the worst pain I've ever been in. I had to actually tear muscle off the bone and tear the scar tissue away. I was screaming on the massage table."

Mark treated cancer as a beatable opponent, not a deadly disease, and so he returned to the Boston College lineup before entering the NFL draft. No team called his number; Mark wasn't the best defensive player in the ACC anymore.

"Cancer," Sandy said, "probably cost my son $15 million."