What exactly does it mean to have a good-feeling day when you're in the middle of chemotherapy?
"It means I don’t feel like -- it feels like I’m in control of chemo today," David Quessenberry said in a phone call Saturday afternoon. "Some days you wake up and you don’t feel very good. You feel like the nausea and chemo has got a hold on you. I have to take advantage of the good days and get a workout in."
He was on his way to that workout as we spoke. The same chemotherapy that is attacking his cancer is also attacking his own immune system, changing the way he operates daily.
"My white blood cell counts right now are really, really low," Quessenberry said. "So I have to be really cautious about everything I do. I have to wear a mask, Purell everything. Stay away from crowds, things like that. But there’s a little local community center that I’m going to go down to and I’m going to get some cardio in and hopefully do some core work. That helps me feel strong because I need that."
The words came out a little more slowly than I remember from the sixth-round draft pick last season. He was a promising player during the 2013 offseason, seemingly destined to make an impact soon when he suffered a fractured foot that landed him on injured reserve for the season. Quessenberry worked his way back then poised himself to work his way back into the lineup this season when his body started to not feel right.
The diagnosis of non-Hodgkins T lymphoblastic lymphoma came on June 3. Texans head trainer Geoff Kaplan might have saved Quessenberry's life. When Kaplan noticed something was wrong, he urged Quessenberry to get examined by the team doctor. They found two liters of fluid in his lungs and a cancerous mass.
Another day and that fluid might have drowned him on the football field.
From the moment he began his treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Quessenberry knew he had his teammates' support. It's overwhelming and wonderful to him.
He was overwhelmed this morning, too, when he began to see through phone calls, emails, Instagram, Twitter and text messages that Texans coaches, front office members, staffers and players who weren't in uniform were all wearing T-shirts honoring him.
"I’ve never seen anything like that," he said. "I think it goes to show you what kind of organization the Texans are. What kind of people they have from the owners, to the trainers, to the coaches, to the players. Incredible, incredible people. I’m blessed to call myself a Texan. I’m just honored they would do something like that. I saw it this morning and I almost lost it. I almost broke down and cried. It was beautiful."
It's a bit of a silver lining to him that because of his being an NFL player, he's able to help raise money for research for his illness. The goal with the shirts is raising $100,000 to give to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Research is a big part of why Quessenberry's chances of survival are so much higher now than it would have been were he diagnosed 10 years ago.
He's just finished round three of chemotherapy at UCSD. Round four will be in California, too. Quessenberry is staying at his parents' home in Carlsbad, California. For rounds five through 10, Quessenberry will return to MD Anderson in Houston for a specialized treatment that can only be administered there. He wants to be in Houston for the season, too -- be with his "brothers" as much as he can.
For now, he stays close by watching practice film at home.
"I love -- I just freaking love football," he said, the yearning audible in his voice. "I love watching it. I love being around it. I love hearing the calls, I love thinking about it. It helps me in my recovery. It helps me get through the days."