Chris Sanderson, renowned goal keeper for defending world champion Canada, is battling terminal cancer whilst playing in the World Lacrosse Championships.
Lacrosse is a demanding sport, not only is it a physically demanding to play at such a high level in the World Lacrosse Championships, but also mentally demanding to deal with the stress and expectations of playing on a world stage. Chris Sanderson, competing at the very highest level, not only has to deal with these ups and downs, but also has to face his own personal battle with terminal cancer.
Sanderson has had a glittering career in international Lacrosse. He was part of the 1998 Canadian World Lacrosse team which waged an epic battle with the US in the final, overcoming an 11-goal deficit but eventually losing in overtime. Sanderson, however, was selected to the All-World Team and voted the Best Goaltender of the Tournament.
Sanderson was selected again in 2002, helping his Canada to earn a silver medal. In 2006, Sanderson led the Canadians to their historic victory over the US, earning the gold medal and ending the Americans’ 28-year winning streak. This 2006 tournament also cemented Sanderson’s place in history as the first goalie to earn All-World designation twice.
However, on December 9th, 2008, Sanderson was diagnosed with a grade IV malignant brain tumour called Glioblastoma Multiforme, considered to be the most aggressive form of brain cancer. This type of cancer is almost always terminal, with an average survival duration of 9 to 12 months.
Almost two years ago, playing in the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships was an impossibility for Chris, however he continues to defy the odds and took to the field yesterday to help Canada to record another victory against long time rivals, USA.
Chris remains positive about his long running battle with cancer,
“It’s been a long road, my prognosis initially was 9 to 12 months and we’ve obviously beat that at this point. Only 1% of the people with this disease survive 5 years so I’m hoping to be in the 1% and so far it’s going well.”
“The first thing that went through my head was my family, I have two little girls, two and four, they are so young you don’t even know if they will have memories of you so you think of using every minute you have left to make an impression on them.”
Chris confided that Lacrosse has helped him through his struggle, “We just focused on the protocol and once we got it, we focused on getting better and getting stronger and that’s where lacrosse came in, I needed to set some goals for myself and that was to make it back to the national squad, I don’t think about dates or numbers or timelines now, I just go day by day and so far it’s been pretty good.”
On looking to the near future, Chris said, “It’s going to interesting to see what happens after the tournament, I was a able to take a round of chemotherapy off, I should be on chemo right now, but to be at my peak I can’t be on chemo, so we had to take a bit of a risk I’ll be back on it next month.”
“I’ll have to find a new goal as I’ve obviously had these Championships to focus on. It was great to set that date and goal and there was the motivation to get in shape and train and all that helped. Mentally, it was a big part of why I have so far done so well. So I’ll have to set another goal after this, it’s definitely played a big role.”
He hopes he can be a role model for other people who are battling cancer.
“The best thing that could come out of this would be that anyone with cancer, any type of cancer, leukaemia, or whatever could look and see this guy that is playing lacrosse at a World level and would say ‘hey I, can beat it too’ and that’s I what I think I can contribute right now.”
Despite being in the precarious position of having to plan life one day at a time, Chris tries to keep the team spirit up by being the joker in training.
“I’ve actually tried to take a fairly humorous position, a couple of times I’ve made a joke by saying ‘don’t hit me in the head, I might die on the field’ and they don’t quite know how to take it. But I think as time’s gone on, they have joined in with the humour and for me that’s how I approach it.”
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