NY Giants Mark Herzlich Beats Cancer Odds & Plays in Super Bowl

Mark Herzlich
Mark Herzlich
It's easy to get infatuated with the hype surrounding the biggest game of the year, when the New England Patriots take on the New York Giants this Sunday at the Super Bowl. In households across the nation, it holds Americans captive from gameplay and strategy to wings and beer consumption. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that the men who are playing are actual human beings. When you read about the hurdles NY Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich had to face to play in this game, not only will you be inspired, you can't help but cheer for him too.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Mark's story truly hit home. Growing up, he was a super-talented player, thinking he had the world at his fingertips, winning all kinds of awards and recognition. Then came the horrific news that he had bone cancer and may never walk again.

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Herzlich's journey to the Super Bowl, at first, seemed impossible. Only two years ago in May 2009, Mark, who was playing for Boston College and named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, was told that he had Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. If further tests showed the cancer had metastasized, he'd have a 10 percent chance of surviving. But if it was only in his leg, he had a 60 to 70 percent chance, but part of his leg might have to be amputated -- definitely not something a kid who is a star football player in college was prepared to hear.

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Still, Mark is made out of tougher stuff than many of us. After running up to his room, asking himself "why me?" he came back down two hours later and told his family: "Don't worry about it. I'll beat this thing."

Mark and his family soon found out that the cancer hadn't spread, but he still had to endure six months of chemo as well as 50 cycles of radiation. He also had a titanium rod inserted into his femur and endured months of agonizing physical therapy. At first, he wasn't given a choice about the removal of part of his femur, which would mean the end of his football-playing days; a few doctors also refused to do radiation, claiming that putting in a rod would make the cancer spread and he'd be dead in six months. Mark made the tough decision and had put his faith in the radiation, and it paid off for him in the end, as he's now heading to the game that kids throwing around a football in their backyards only dream of playing in.

His tweet from earlier should be an inspiration for cancer patients, as well as for everyone who wants to see the disease eradicated: "2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThatSh*tCancer"

Talk about beating the odds. Mark Herzlich is such an inspiration, no matter which team you're rooting for on Sunday. If you needed any particular reason to cheer for a player, cheer for Mark when he takes the field.

And his inspirational tale goes way beyond football. It touches each of us and helps us to remember that, even in our darkest hour, there can still be hope. Maybe Mark's story and his long journey to the Super Bowl will inspire others out there facing any kind of terrible disease that dreams really can come true -- even if they seem utterly impossible to attain.

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If you want to listen to the man himself talk about how he got through some of the hardest days, check out his comments to the media here:

Does Mark Herzlich's story inspire you? Who else have you known who has beaten all the odds?


Image via TheGlobeandMail/YouTube

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