U of Montana Grizzly Tennis Standout Determined to Beat Cancer
Just 10 players, yet they represent an astounding 7 different countries.
They come from Norway. Denmark. Germany. England. Spain. Australia. And Whitefish, Montana. Yes, Whitefish. And this close-knit group is rallying behind their Montana teammate, who is facing a far more challenging match off the court than he ever will on it.
THAT NOT-RIGHT-NOT-WRONG FEELING
University of Montana Sports Information Director Eric Taber tells us that less than a month ago, Griz freshman tennis player Jake Watkins was competing in matches at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula, and competing well, as the Grizzlies were running away from Lewis-Clark State for a couple of non-conference victories.
But there was just...something. Pain in the stomach, but not sickness like a flu bug or anything like that. Yet, not feeling 100%, either. But, Jake powered through. He was getting to play and the team was rolling. Tennis life was good.
From there, it was back to being a student: just your easy, ho-hum, Pre-med and Biochemistry major on a Provost Honors Scholarship routine. But, as the next few days rolled on, that lower stomach pain not only persisted, it began to get worse. That's when big brother stepped in.
Jake's brother, Josh, also a member of the Griz tennis team, took him to a hospital emergency room. Surgery was scheduled the very next day to remove his ascending colon, which contained a mass. That was followed by the diagnosis no one wants to hear.
Burkitt lymphoma is an aggressive, fast-growing blood cancer. It is rare in adults, and especially rare in healthy, athletic, well-conditioned college athletes like Jake.
In an effort to beat this, Jake has plenty going for him. For starters, with equally aggressive chemotherapy for this type of cancer, over 90% of patients experience complete remission.
Then there's family. Jake already has his brother/Griz teammate with him. His parents will visit from Whitefish often. And of course, the extended Danish, Norwegian, British, German, Spanish and Australian family, his other teammates.
In a show of solidarity this past weekend, the other 9 members of the team arrived at the UM tennis courts with shaved heads. It was their way of letting their friend know he’s not alone.
Today, (Monday, April 3) is the scheduled Day One for Jake's first round of chemo, a brutal regimen of chemotherapy that will put him through 10 to 18-day cycles, 7 to 10 days rest in between, and at least five days in the hospital with a continuous IV. Through it all, Jake is determined to keep up with his classes.
We know everyone is pulling for one tough Montana Grizzly.
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