|Obion Central’s Tankersley tackling cancer head-on |
|Posted: Friday, November 7, 2008 4:45 pm |
|“Cancer picked the wrong person to mess with.” |
Those are the words that Obion Central head football coach Shawn Jackson uses when he describes sophomore Tyler Tankersley.
Though not on the field during the recently-completed football season, Tankersley was still engaged in the most aggressive hard-hitting fight of his life — sans his football pads — after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in late-April.
All looked well after a first surgery — in which he wore his No. 80 football jersey to the operating room — and Tankersley even practiced as a wide receiver during the summer before a check-up in August revealed that the cancer had returned in his lymph nodes and remaining testical.
Ever the team player, the Central 10th-grader again wore his football jersey into surgery and he has faith that he’ll be able to wear it on the playing field once again after his final round of chemotherapy and a December check-up.
“I believe that I’m in remission and that God has healed me,” Tankersley, who has been schooled at home since August but hopes to return to OCCHS in February, told The Messenger in a phone interview Thursday. “And, if I had to give any advice to others going through circumstances similar to mine, I would say keep your faith strong and keep God No. 1 in your life.
“He and my football boys have gotten me through this.”
Indeed, the 16-year-old Tankersley’s faith has been strong during this trying time and it has served as a steady foundation to help his mother, Pam; father, Shawn; and older sister Ashley find some semblance of peace in this trying time.
“We were extremely devastated when we got the news he had cancer,” Mrs. Tankersley told The Messenger. “That’s one of the worst things a parent can hear, but Tyler has been so strong and he said from the start that ‘God was going to take care of him’ and that has made it easier for me.”
Furthermore, the Rebel football program has been there for Tyler and his family as Jackson and his crew haven’t forgotten their embattled comrade. The Rebels wore bracelets with Tyler’s name on them and lifted him up in prayer prior to each game.
The OC team even ordered No. 80 decals to put on their helmets, but that idea was ditched when it was learned that the stickers were permanent.
“Our team has so much respect for Tyler,” Jackson exclaimed. “As most high schoolers do, they mess with each other’s lockers and hide things and stuff of that nature, but not one guy has touched Tyler’s since he’s been gone.
“It’s just the way he left it.”
On the flip side, Tankersley hasn’t forgotten his teammates either as he appeared on the sidelines four times after his three-week stay at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Medical Hospital in Memphis for treatment and Jackson believes he was much of the reason for the Rebels inspired play at Dyer County.
“I think one of the reasons why we jumped on Dyer County early was because we felt better as a team with Tyler being there,” Jackson said. “When this news first broke, we had players wondering if Tyler was going to live and, for him to be there, it put us at ease and showed us that he’s going to make it.”
For what it’s worth, Tankersley insists he was just playing his part as a teammate in coming out to support his football brethren.
“I just wanted to support my boys and be with my friends no matter what,” Tankersley said. “We’re a unique group in that we’re the only guys I know that can tell each other we love one another and really mean it.
“I guess you could I’m say attached to them.”
As a matter of fact, Tankersley is so attached to the OC football team that he had his grandparents rig up a cell phone broadcast of the games that he missed during the early part of the season when he was still in recovery in Memphis.
The cell phone, resting on a charger, was placed next to a radio and a call was put in to Memphis where the sophomore listened intently.
“It was actually very clear,” Tankersley joked about the makeshift setup.
However, listening on the radio and just being on the sideline may not be satisfactory for Tankersley, who starred as the Most Valuable Defensive Player his eighth-grade year at Hillcrest.
“I really hope I can get back on the field,” Tankersley, also a Top 20 student in his class said. “Honestly, I can’t wait and I’m getting kind of bored sitting inside all day.”
Meanwhile, nothing would make Jackson happier than to welcome Tankersley back onto the gridiron as a player.
“Tyler’s the kind of kid that you just don’t replace,” Jackson said. “He does everything right whether it’s on the field or off. He was showing a nice amount of potential even after his first surgery.
“Honestly, I hope and I pray that Tyler can get back on the field someday, because if he does after beating cancer, his opponents won’t have a chance.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker @ucmessenger.com.