For most college students these four years are the last years of their lives without tremendous worry. At least that is how it is supposed to be.
On Sept. 16, 2007, Mercyhurst College’s then sophomore and current senior Garrett Kensy had his world turned upside down as the days of being a carefree college student went out the window.
The day the doctors gave a diagnosis of testicular cancer to Garrett Kensy, the shock began to set in for him and those close to him.
“When I heard that Kensy had cancer I was completely shocked. It’s hard to believe someone that takes such good care of their body like Garrett did could get such a thing,” said head coach Marty Schaetzle.
Garrett went back to Buffalo where he went through surgery in order to remove the tumor, but he was not still out of the woods.
“After the surgery it was discovered that the cancer had spread and I would need to go through chemotherapy,” said Kensy.
While in Buffalo most of his winter term for chemotherapy, Garrett was still fresh on everyone’s mind at Mercyhurst.
Some of his teammates shaved Garrett’s number into the side of their heads.
“We tried to step up as a team and give him the spiritual support that he needed during those tough times,” said Schaetzle.
“Everyone was great at Mercyhurst especially the teachers. They were very understanding with me and really made it easy for me to attempt to keep up with classes while I was at home,” said Kensy.
“The reaction to my situation around campus was great and people really made it easy for me to get through it,” said Kensy.
That spring, Kensy was free of cancer after the long treatments of chemotherapy and has stayed cancer-free since.
However, two years later another Mercyhurst football player’s life was affected by cancer in an eerily similar way.
On July 10, sophomore Jeffrey Pollard was diagnosed with testicular cancer becoming the second Mercyhurst football player to have testicular cancer.
Four days later Pollard would undergo surgery in order to remove the tumor. As with Kensy, they later discovered that the cancer was more aggressive than previously thought and he would have to undergo chemotherapy.
When Kensy heard of Pollard’s diagnosis the memories of his ordeal and the shock of Pollard having cancer set in and he vowed to be there for Pollard to get him through.
“I was completely stunned about Pollard and really felt the pain he was going through. I called him immediately after I heard so he knew if he needed anything that I would be there,” said Kensy.
“Garrett texted me all the time and really helped me through the whole ordeal. Since he had been through it all before, it really helped to have someone that had been through it before there helping me out,” said Pollard.
Pollard was surprised at the outpouring of goodwill that he received when he returned to campus winter term after living at home most of fall term.
“The one moment for me that really stands out was when my roommate and teammate Jordan Shields began chanting ‘hero’ at my match it really was great to know that people really cared,” said Pollard.
The recovery for Pollard has not been as smooth as he suspected with his body still being weak from the time he was receiving chemotherapy as he attempted to wrestle this year.
“I was hoping to come back and wrestle but my shoulder couldn’t hold up. I am just not as strong as I was before but I am shooting to be back for spring football,” said Pollard.
Marty Schaetzle, a man who has contact with both Kensy and Pollard, admires how much both have overcome.
“Both of them never came into the office feeling bad for themselves. They attacked their illness head on and this attitude is really mirrored in their attitudes as athletes,” said Schaetzle.
“They have both remained excellent students as both Garrett and Jeffrey have managed to maintain high grade point averages and they will both have major roles on the team next year,” said Schaetzle.
Both Pollard and Kensy have walked out of their experiences grateful for the support they receive at Mercyhurst College.
“The team and coaches also did a great job helping me through these tough times. Honestly, I feel if I had gone anywhere else the positive support that I received would not have been the same,” said Pollard.