Two months ago, Mitchell Meyers received a diagnosis that changed his life. Doctors informed the Iowa State standout defensive end that he had Hodgkin's lymphoma. In a flash, Meyers went from getting ready for spring practice to facing a bout with cancer.
Two months later, Meyers is almost halfway through his chemo treatments, with radiation to follow in the fall. Though his focus has been on beating the cancer, he has plans of returning to the field for the Cyclones before long.
Recently, Meyers spoke to ESPN.com about his diagnosis, the outpouring of support he's received and when he's hoping to be back in an Iowa State uniform:
How exactly did you find out you had lymphoma?
Meyers: It was a Thursday, and my neck was swollen. It was totally random. I had no idea why my neck would be swollen. I thought it would go away. So I waited until Monday, and I still felt like somebody had their hand on my throat. Like someone was choking me. It was a strange feeling. I went to see Dr. [Marc] Shulman, our team doctor. The first thing he thought was that it was a blood clot, which is scary on its own. My dad had had a blood clot when I was in high school, so they put two and two together. So we did a chest X-ray to rule other stuff out. I never saw the X-ray until later. But I could tell Dr. Shulman was tense after that. I knew something was wrong. Nate, one of our athletic trainers, drove me to the emergency room to get a CT scan. After the CT scan, the ER doctor came in and said, ‘It looks like lymphoma.’ I said, ‘What is lymphoma?’ And he said it was a cancer of the lymph nodes. I was just stunned.
How did your parents react to the news?
Meyers: I waited a little bit. I didn't know how to tell them. They said they were going to get on the first flight to Ames. They said, ‘You’re going to be OK. We’re going to figure this out.’ The thing is, the only symptom I had was my neck was swollen. I thought if you had cancer, you were sick and ill. It was incredibly strange. I’m sure they were a little freaked out. I was more nervous about them. I didn’t want to scare them. But I was in shock, too.
Have they given you a prognosis?
Meyers: They expect me to make a full recovery. There’s a lot of statistics and stuff and it depends on your diagnosis and what stage you were when you were diagnosed. But right now, after I’ve had some interim scans, I’m pretty confident I’m going to have a full recovery.
So is the plan to come back and play football at some point?
Meyers: Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully this year. I’m going to be doing radiation during fall camp, so it depends how fast I can recover from the chemo. But if not this year, then definitely next year.
Not sure if you saw this, but I did a story last month kind of about you, about (former Oklahoma offensive lineman) Austin Woods, who basically went through the same you’re going through right now ...
Meyers: Yeah, I saw he went through the same thing. I haven’t talked to him personally. But I definitely saw the article.
Does his experience, that he was able to come back and play football that season, does that give you any inspiration?
Meyers: Yeah, definitely. It’s good to see someone else go through the same thing I’m going through, because without that, there’s really no (precedent) for what I’m going through. So yeah, when I see an article like, it puts things in perspective that I’m not the only one going through this.
Have you been able to still do some stuff despite the chemo?
Meyers: I still work out every day. The exercise kind of helps out with my fatigue and it feels like I’m getting the chemo out of my system. During spring football, when all the injured guys were doing rehab on the sidelines, I would run 100-yard sprints on the sidelines during practice. I also do some lifting. It’s obviously not what I used to do. But I’m still trying to remain active. I don’t just sit around.
Other than your parents, who’s been a person of support who’s really helped?
Meyers: Someone who’s really helped me, this lady Jess, is my oncology nurse at McFarland Clinic here in Ames. When you think of chemo, you think of it as an unpleasant experience, getting pumped with poison. Jess had made that a lot more comforting. I’ve got my own room. It’s really comforting having a lady like that to help me through it, to answer my questions. She talks with my mom a lot. She’s been somebody that’s made this experience a little easier.
What about your teammates and coaches?
Meyers: They’ve all shown an enormous amount of support. I still go to class, I still do my homework and stuff. The trainers, as well. I come in and use the bike a lot. Everyone asks how I’m doing. It’s just been really great. It’s good to have all these people behind me. I could be in a different situation where I’d be facing this on my own, and that would be a lot worse.
What was Coach [Paul] Rhoads' reaction to the news?
Meyers: The trainers told him. When I was in the hospital in the middle of my diagnosis, he came up and visited. My parents weren’t there yet. It was him, my roommate (Iowa State QB Grant Rohach), his dad was there -- they all just kind of hung out with me. We didn’t talk about football. It was just more personable, with Coach Rhoads, which I really appreciated.