'The medicine game' is helping one lacrosse player battle through cancer treatment
Gavin Schaffer is a junior at Denver South High School fighting Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while using lacrosse as an outlet to heal.
DENVER — With high school lacrosse on hold, club teams have filled the void.
For one player from Denver South, it’s been a life changing experience.
“Its kind of just getting away from everything and not really focusing on anything in particular," says Gavin Schaffer, a junior at South.
Lacrosse is called the medicine game. Native Americans believe it can lift spirits and heal members of the community. There’s no question the sport helped Schaffer.
“Everyone always has this stereotype that cancer patients can’t really do anything. Like they just sit at home and do nothing," said Schaffer, days away from starting his sixth chemotherapy treatment. “I just really feel (playing lacrosse is) a way to get out of that and be normal. With all your friends and stuff and not have to worry about what you’re going to have to go through in the next week or two.”
Six months ago, Schaffer was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The same disease his sister Lilian battled and beat earlier this year.
Chemotherapy didn’t keep the 16-year-old from playing lacrosse. After five treatments, he hasn’t missed a single practice or game for his club team, South Elite Amateur Lacrosse.
"I remember at the beginning he didn’t look as well as he does now, but he was still out there fighting and putting in the work just like everybody else”, said Thomas Culhanne, a senior defenseman.
“There’s no way I could stay at home and do nothing," said an emotional Schaffer fighting back tears. “Because I just, I just...you know.”
“Chemotherapy takes everything out of you. And I have absolutely no idea how he does it," said Evan Westervelt, a junior defenseman. “It’s incredible. Especially the way he performs at such a high level.”
Schaffer is on track to be in remission by the end of the year. And that’s a good thing, because he has big plans for 2021 as spokesman for the Headstrong Foundation. It's a non-profit which raises money to improve the lives of those affected by cancer.
“I just feel that if sharing my story will help people donate and help that Headstrong Foundation to help kids who are going through a lot worse than me. Then I feel like it can also cure cancer and give money to research and give these kids homes to help the get treatment to make them get better," said Schaffer.
Hope is the medicine that lacrosse gave Gavin Schaefer on his journey to good health. He began his final Chemotherapy treatment on Wednesday and was on the field that night helping South beat Kent Denver 11-6.
They’re now two wins away from a championship.