Pittsburgh Panthers star running back James Connerhas been diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
Conner made the announcement at a news conference Friday, joined by his mother, Kelly Patterson, Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi and several teammates. He said he received the diagnosis on Thanksgiving and has tumors in his neck and chest. He will begin chemotherapy next week. Treatment will last about six months.
“When I heard those words — ‘You have cancer’ — I admit I was scared,” Conner, 20, said in a statement, posted on the Panthers’ website. “But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it, and I will win.”
Stanley Marks, deputy director of clinical services for UPMC CancerCenter/University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said Conner’s cure rate is between 85 and 95 percent, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“One year ago today I was asking myself, ‘Why me?,’ ” Conner said. “Why was I the lucky one to be getting the ACC Player of the Year award when I had so many teammates who deserved it as much as me? Now one year later, instead of asking, ‘Why me?’ I am saying, ‘Why not me?’ I can beat cancer.
“I know there are so many people in the world who were told by their doctors this week that they also have cancer. I want them to know that together we can — and will — beat cancer.
“I will play football again. I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”
Conner had surgery after tearing his MCL in the Panthers’ opening game of the season.
In his career he has rushed for 2,641 yards and 34 touchdowns on 452 carries, including 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014 — earning ACC player of the year honors.
Narduzzi said he expects Conner to win the battle.
“Know this: James Conner will not face this challenge alone,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “We are all going to be right beside him every step of the way. And the day that he is declared cancer free, we will all celebrate like we do after one of his patented touchdown runs. James has never backed down from an opponent and we all know this is a battle he will win.”