Summer 2013 was already shaping up as a busy time for new Goshen College men’s basketball coach Neal Young.
Young, in his post less than two months, was in the midst of moving to the Maple City with his wife Maggie the first week of June when he got a phone call from his doctor that changed his life forever.
Young had cancer — specifically, lymphoblastic lymphoma.
The disease is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which often occurs in young patients, but not exclusively. Lymphoblastic lymphoma is “commonly associated with large mediastinal masses and has a high predilection for disseminating to bone marrow and the central nervous system, much like acute lymphocytic leukemia,” according to an article on webmd.com.
Young went to his doctor after not feeling well and having a persistent cough for a few weeks. The doctor, on a hunch, ordered a chest X-ray, which revealed a mass about the size of a baseball.
A biopsy conducted the same day Young and his wife moved to Goshen — May 31 — confirmed the diagnosis. Young began treatment June 4.
“It was a crazy week,” Young said. “We bought our first house, moved and were out furniture shopping when we got the call.”
Young said he’d been emotionally preparing himself for the possibility that it might be something pretty bad.
“When you hear that you have a big mass in your chest, those next couple of days are pretty nerve-wracking,” Young said. “You just want to know. … I was never worried about dying, but I wanted to know what I had in front of me.”
Being a former athlete, Young said he carried a bit of an air of invincibility.
“Most athletes feel that kind of stuff happens to other people,” Young said. “When you’re young and healthy, you never stop to think something like that could happen to you.”