Cancer survivor eager to rejoin Indians

July 17, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

Now, it's more about soccer for 18-year-old Zach Tanner of Waynesboro, Pa.

Last September I wrote a column ("It's not about soccer") regarding the unfortunate situation of Tanner - the Waynesboro High School soccer star who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in August - and comparing it to that of four-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, whose story ("It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life") was serving as an inspiration for Tanner.

The comparisons haven't stopped there. Neither has the inspirational story - of both athletes.

Armstrong is seemingly on the verge of a fifth straight Tour title, while Tanner - who completed his chemotherapy treatments in December, successfully fighting off the final traces of the disease that spread to his lungs and lymph nodes - is preparing for his comeback tale this fall when he returns to the Indians' varsity lineup at center midfield.


"I'm starting to get all worked up about the season," said Tanner, who was sidelined from all school activity last fall in what would have been his senior season. "I use (the cancer) as inspiration. I know sports helped me get through it, and now I'm trying to feed off it."

Tanner, a 2001 Herald-Mail All-Area first-team selection, is confident that he'll return even stronger, as Armstrong did. He even plans to kick for the school's football team for the first time this fall and may also give basketball a try for the first time this winter.

Having been stripped of nearly everything, it hasn't been too hard for Tanner to find the motivation to get it all back and then some.

"It took a whole half-year away from me, so now I'm working twice as hard as everyone else to get it back," he said. "I read an article where Lance said, 'I have to go through some pain every day or I'm not happy,' and I'm using that as my motto this summer.

"On those days I don't feel like doing anything, I just remember the days I was home and I couldn't do anything, and that always kicks me in the butt."

Aside from his daily soccer routine this summer, Tanner is lifting weights four days a week with the football team and running the other days. He's already gained back 25 of the 35 pounds he lost from his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame.

Leading the Tribe charge on the soccer field is next. Last season, Waynesboro advanced to the Mid-Penn playoffs for the first time since joining the conference in 1991 and earned a berth in the District 3 tournament for the first time since 1990.

"I'm hoping we'll be even better. We've got a pretty big junior class coming back," Tanner said. "One of my goals is to either be the top goal scorer in the Mid-Penn for the season or second behind (teammate) Nick Kipe (Waynesboro's leading scorer last year).

"As a team, our goal is to dethrone (13-time defending conference champ) Cumberland Valley in the Mid-Penn."

Of course, those goals pale in comparison to overcoming cancer. Tanner probably never will be able to forget that.

"Right now, I'm fine," he said. "I'm on a half-year schedule where I have to go up to Hershey Medical Center to get scanned every six months.

"I'll probably have to do this the rest of my life to make sure it's under control."

Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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