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Peterson thankful to fulfill fallen friend’s dream

Wednesday, 8th October 2008

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 10/8/08

Maybe no one outside of the Colleluori family can appreciate the importance of Saturday’s 2nd Annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High more than K.C. Peterson.

Peterson, like Nick Colleluori, was diagnosed with blood cancer (b-cell lymphoma) while playing college lacrosse. Peterson’s diagnosis occurred during the summer heading into his junior season at Haverford College three years ago.

Peterson, like Nick Colleluori, was diagnosed with blood cancer (b-cell lymphoma) while playing college lacrosse. Peterson’s diagnosis occurred during the summer heading into his junior season at Haverford College three years ago.

It was just a brief time later that Colleluori was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma while playing at Hofstra University. The two lacrosse players never met, but, thanks to the telephone and cell phone texting, they became good friends that went through the painful rigors of chemotherapy and radiation treatments together.

Their stories took very different paths, however. Peterson, whose cancer was localized (in his femur), made a swift recovery after he luckily found it early due to a freak lacrosse injury. In fact, Peterson made it back to play in his junior year and then became an All-American as a senior and has a new job as a financial analyst in New York City.

Colleluori, meanwhile, did not make the same recovery from a deadly cancer that was not localized and continued to spread. Despite a monumental fight, he succumbed to his disease on Nov. 28, 2006.

Less than two years later, Peterson still thinks about his ordeal and how lucky he is to be in remission. Mostly, he feels honored to live on to help spread the word on cancer awareness in the memory of Nick “Head” Colleluori, whose determination and grit served as the motivation for the HEADstrong Foundation and a tournament that has already raised over $200,000 for blood cancer research.

Saturday’s Classic will feature 13 teams and run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Ridley in Folsom, Pa. Admission is $10 and more than 7,000 people are expected.

“I took my treatments as an outpatient, but Nick had to stay in the hospital and he was hooked up to a monitor all the time,” said Peterson, 23, who will attend the Classic Saturday as the Honorary Captain for Haverford. “I was so sick to hear that he had passed away.

“I felt so fortunate (to recover), but I also felt such a heavy heart. It reminded me of a quote: ‘Cancer never chooses.’ You can be 70 and have cancer, or you can be 3 and have cancer. It doesn’t choose.

“Unfortunately, it took a good person with Nick.

“But I also remember him saying how his mom (Cheryl) felt better because he was going to devote himself to kids with cancer. After his junior year, with all his chemo and radiation, he talked about getting better, and he said what his goals were.
“He was optimistic. He wanted to take his experience and use it for what it was worth. I was inspired, and so happy to hear he would do something like that.”

Nick Colleluori has indeed made good on his dream.

His desire to make a difference in the fight against blood cancer has spread throughout the lacrosse world beyond all expectations, through lime-green shoelaces, word of mouth and lasting memories. Last year the Classic had six teams and raised over $70,000. This year’s has 13 teams; at least 10 requests were turned away. It is expected that more than $200,000 will be raised.

Peterson, of Ridgefield, Conn., recalled that his diagnosis was made several weeks before Nick’s. He actually had been playing lacrosse in a summer league game when he got hit in his knee. The pain wouldn’t go away and he went to get a checkup and a young doctor alertly gave him an MRI; the decision was a stroke of genius.

When Colleluori got his diagnosis, he learned that Peterson had a similar diagnosis through Haverford coach Mike Murphy. Nick called Peterson on the phone to trade information and the two immediately became close.

“We never met,” said Peterson. “I was treated at the University of Pennsylvania and Nick was treated at Children’s Hospital (of Pennsylvania). We were supposed to meet a bunch of times, but every time, something would happen.

“I can remember the first time I had chemotherapy. Nick called me up and I told him about what to expect.”

Peterson believes the best thing about the Nick Colleluori Classic is the impact on cancer awareness and early detection.

“I think cancer awareness is important; you have to have mind, body and spirit in your outlook,” Peterson said. “It’s not just curing your body or your mind or your spirit.

“You have to have all three working together. You have to eat right and have the right mental outlook. Whether you are religious or not, you have to believe you can get through it and believe be you can be healthy again.”

Peterson said he got a lucky break when he was first sick. Murphy suggested he see Dr. Stephen Emerson, who at the time was Chief of Staff in Oncology at Penn. Emerson, a former Haverford lacrosse great, is now the college’s President.

“When I saw Dr. Emerson and went through my diagnosis, he said, “I can fix you!’ I will never forget this.”

“You have to believe God is going to help you. Awareness is a big part of it. Some people can be in denial or shock or sad for a while and not take the steps needed those first couple weeks or months.

“The more educated you are on cancer, the more you can do for it and for yourself. You can give yourself better chances.”

Murphy, who accompanied Peterson for many of his treatments, said his team is proud to play in the second Classic.

“There is a special element to the event for us,” Murphy said. “We’ll have one of the best players in the history of our program standing on our sidelines with us showing all those other young cancer patients that you can beat.



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