No Excuse

by Sam Hackenbracht

I was diagnosed with stage four germ cell cancer when I was 18 months old. It’s a rare kind a lot of people don’t know about. There was a tumor on my liver and it spread to my lungs.

I got treatment for two years. Maybe a year and a half. And then I went into remission.

When my parents found a bump on my abdomen and took me to the doctor the first time, they were told there was nothing to worry about. Then I started getting sick. I was throwing up. I was having fevers. They took me back to the doctor and got told a second time there was nothing to worry about.

Then they took me to an emergency room. When they took me to that emergency room they found out it was a tumor. They told my parents to take me to the Children’s Hospital right away. So my parents went home, got some clothes, and went. I’m pretty sure we stayed at that hospital for a while.

It’s hard to remember because I was so little. I only remember a little bit about my hospital trips.

It affected my parents way more than it affected me.

When they tell me the stories, Mom was the one who held it together. She had to be strong for Dad. He immediately started throwing up. He wouldn’t leave the hospital. He’s the one who couldn’t handle stuff like that.

Even to this day Dad can’t even talk about it without getting choked up and starting to cry.

– When the Cancer Caught Up –

He freaked out my senior year of high school too, when I started to get side effects from the chemo.

They thought I had a blood clot in my lung. I got diagnosed with high blood pressure. I got diagnosed with something called Raynaud’s Syndrome, which is where the blood circulation to your fingers and your toes is really slow. They turned dark blue and black, and got really cold. It hurt really bad. Playing softball in Ohio, playing catcher, having no feeling in your toes, it was pretty hard.

I didn’t know what was going on. It was all scary. And I’ve never seen my dad such a hot mess.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital that year. Not like staying for long periods at a time but I did have a couple ER trips and appointments twice a week. So I couldn’t play in all my games as a senior.

I’d been working for that my whole life.

– Fatherly Influence –

As a kid Dad had pushed me nonstop.

I didn’t get to do some of the things all the other kids got to do. He wouldn’t even let me do things like ice skate because he was afraid I would hurt my ankle and that it would affect softball. All the other kids were out having fun and I was in Massillon’s indoor facility doing softball stuff with my dad.

There were times where I would be frustrated because I wanted to do things that my friends were doing. But now I look back extremely thankful for how much he pushed me. I am the player I’ve become because of him.

And my senior season I still broke all my school’s home run records. I was All-State for the third time in a row. I was Johnny Bench National Catcher of the Year.

To see the enjoyment my parents got from all that success was almost more special than how it made me feel.


– Returning the Favor –

The ultimate way to pay them back for what they did for me is to have that kind of success and show them I’m going to use everything they’ve put in as best I can.

So I’m going to graduate college. I’m going to get my degree. I’m going to be the best softball player I can be at Ohio State.

I don’t use my medical history as an excuse. Never have.

My parents used to tell me that yesterday’s success doesn’t matter. It’s about what comes today or tomorrow. Continue to prove people wrong every day. Regardless of success you’ve already had.

I’m sticking to what I was taught. It doesn’t take much to lose what you got.

Ohio State Buckeyes Sam Hackenbracht