Lacrosse for some people is just a hobby, but for others (like me), it’s a way of life. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York where lacrosse was nowhere near a prominent sport among kids of the area. However, as a freshman in high school I was exposed to lacrosse by a friend that played for a local high school and immediately fell in love with the sport and went out and bought my first lacrosse stick the very next day. I found lacrosse to be an extremely fun sport that I was surprisingly pretty good at. That was the beginnings of my life as a “lax bro”.
Now, to get into how lacrosse essentially “saved” my life. I was born with a rare bone disease called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses (MHE) at birth that causes numerous tumors to grow. Due to this disease, I have a copious amount of tumors in every area of my body from head to toe (over 200 tumors throughout my life which resulted in about more than two dozen surgeries). In the summer of 2010, tumors in my left shoulder/rib area became malignant and I had surgery on August 30th and October 13th to remove these malignant tumors, even though I was not formally diagnosed with cancer until October 10th. Most normal people would find this news to be devastating at the age of 15 and freak out, but I’m not like most people.
Most of these “normal” people would seek professional help to cope with having a terminal illness, but I turned to lacrosse. The night my parents told me I had cancer and that 3 days later I need emergency surgery to remove the tumors, I went into my backyard and threw a lacrosse ball against the wall for hours on end in order to relax. I found lacrosse to be my only escape from reality and stresses that I have to deal with due to MHE and cancer. When I am playing lacrosse, it is one of the only times that I am truly happy and at peace with the world and myself. I truly believe and know that lacrosse was the only reason I was able to keep my head throughout those dreadful months and come out of the experience as a cancer survivor.
After waking up from a 15 hour surgery to remove the malignant tumors, my first delirious, anesthesia-high words were “When can I play lacrosse again?” Only about three weeks after the surgery (when most people would still be out of commission), I tried out for my first lacrosse team and made it. Since then, I use lacrosse as a stress-reliever and basically live to play it.
Now as an 18-month cancer free 17-year-old, I am actively seeking a way to further research to help cure MHE and cancer. In 2005, my family and I started the MHE Research Foundation in order to raise money for and spread awareness of MHE. We hold fundraisers called Funtasia every other year, and do other random fundraising activities in an effort to fund MHE research. Currently, I am selling bracelets at $5 each to help raise money for the foundation as part of my “Road to the Cure” campaign.
My battle with cancer and love for lacrosse has taught me that life is too short to take anything for granted. So, live every day as if it is your last and do what makes you happy, whether that be playing lacrosse, reading a book, or even if it’s playing that weird sport of baseball (hahaha).
Live, love, lax.
If anyone would like to contact me to help become a part of “Road to the Cure”, contact me via e-mail at [email protected].
Help become a part of the cure! Join the push for the cure with me and the MHE Research Foundation by going to mheresearchfoundation.org for more information about MHE or would like to donate towards the cause. Every dollar counts! Thank you! -Vinny Eaton