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September 12, 2013 05:00 PM

Student Athlete Tackles Cancer

Sioux Falls, SD

Teamwork taught 20-year-old Chase Casper how to approach game day on the football field.

"Determination to get through everything," Casper said.

The philosophy holds up off the gridiron, with his new team of nurses and doctors at Sanford, while he fights against cancer. 

"Even if I don't like getting chemo or getting all of these procedures and treatments done, you really don't have a choice other than to be strong and positive.  It just makes life a lot of easier," Casper said.

Barely out of his teenage years, Casper has already been through a lot. The Lake Preston native, who was quarterback of his high school football team, suffered a concussion. Dakota State University recruited him as a red shirt wide receiver.  While at DSU, he had two more concussions, and decided to step away from the game. In the fall of 2012, Chase had a new challenge. He felt some tingling and numbness in his lips, which spread into his mouth. Eventually, he noticed swollen lymph nodes.

"Just kind of popped up over night. A giant mass on my neck," Casper said.

Doctors eventually diagnosed him with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which affects the blood and bone marrow. He's had multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and more on the way. In total, Chase has gone under the knife three times. Intense treatments took a toll on his pancreas, causing doctors to remove 90-percent of it. He is now a type-one diabetic.

"Not really words to explain it, I guess," Chase said.

Where words fail, Chase said his faith succeeds. It also helps that his very own cheer section has never stopped rallying around him.

"I feel like I'm counting down the days, just waiting for the day when he can start to feel good again. Because I don't know if he even, right now, knows what that feels like," Treva Casper, mom, said.

His oncologist says Chase is showing progress, and has a few more treatments, including radiation, before he goes into the maintenance stage of his treatment. For him, that will mean chemo pills to control his disease. Eventually he wants to go back to DSU next semester.

"I see all of my friends are back there. As much as school isn't fun, and doing homework and stuff, I'd much rather be down there," Chase said.

Though Chase is 20, he's at Sanford Children's Castle of Care Hospital in Sioux Falls. September is childhood cancer awareness month. Children's Miracle Network is teaming up with local high schools to spread the word, and you will see many student athletes wearing gold ribbon sticker on their helmets. As Chase inches toward recovery, perhaps he's teaching all of us to approach life like a game.

"Fourth quarter, time winding down. I think we got the lead," Chase said.

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