By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/3/18
You might not expect someone who was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and has begin chemotherapy to consider himself lucky – but that’s how Joey Sankey feels today.
“The support’s been overwhelming in the most positive way,” said Sankey after an emotional run, speech and awards ceremony at the “Attack Cancer 5K” at Penn Charter. “I obviously have an unfortunate (diagnosis) having cancer, but I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to have this love and support from everyone.
“It’s coming from my immediate family to close friends, but also from teammates I played with at UNC, high school and youth, and people I played against, as well as coaches, MLL people PLL people … It’s unbelievable. I feel very very lucky.”
The “Attack Cancer 5K” drew over 350 runners this morning, but more importantly has raised over $20,000, through Sankey’s Movember Page, race signups and a silent auction that featured footballs autographed by Eagle Brandon Graham and other personalities and Atlanta Falcon and former Penn Chater football great Matt Ryan and a new Wings jersey signed by Matt Rambo.
The event was idyllic for Sankey, a former Penn Charter, Rebel Elite/Duke’s LC, North Carolina and MLL great who now serves as a PC assistant lacrosse coach and runs the Team 11 travel team while also hoping to play in the inaugural Premier Lacrosse League season next summer.
Sankey, 26, was diagnosed with testicular cancer Sept. 18 and underwent surgery to have the mass removed at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Soon afterwards, a biopsy showed that Sankey had a non-seminoma type of testicular cancer, which can grow and spread. That meant that Sankey, an admissions associate at Penn Charter, had to undergo four rounds of chemotherapy.
That’s when Sankey himself led the creation of the event and the Movember fundraising page – and the community embraced it.
The heavy rains ended early in the morning and the sun came out in time for the race. People in attendance included dozens of Sankey’s current high school and club players, former teammates at all levels, and former foes from all levels with some coming from as far as Utah.
“What I didn’t get to say in my speech was that I feel like I owe so much to lacrosse,” said Sankey, who begins his second round of Chemotherapy on Monday but ran an 18:12 for the 5K. “Almost everything I have done in life is because of lacrosse. Going to Penn Charter, going to UNC .. 90 percent of these people know me because of lacrosse, whether directly or indirectly.
“I feel so grateful.
“I am treating (his fight against cancer) like a game. There are four rounds of chemo. The first quarter is over. I start quarter No. 2 Monday. I think one day I will look back at this as a bump in the road.
“It will feel stronger from this and a better person.”
Sankey said he has gained strength from others that have fought cancer. “When you go through this you realize how many people go through it. Because of my platform, everyone knows about it. But almost everyone goes through it or knows someone going through it. I am not alone at all.
“I felt great (running today). That’s the other thing. I had two knee surgeries the past year and even though I am going through chemo I feel healthy and I am training to get healthy for the PLL. My time was 18:12 and I am excited about that!”
The race’s overall winner was Penn Charter freshman Oliver Brown, also a Penn Charter lacrosse player and cross country standout who is on Sankey’s Team 11 squad. Brown had a time of 16:10 and his father, Damon Brown, Director of Squash at Penn Charter, was second in the Men’s Open division in 17:14. The women’s winner was Alanna Poretta in 16:53 and Laura Staller was second in 18:50.
“He’s really been a big mentor for me playing in helping me play at a higher level so this was a chance to thank him and be there for him,” said Oliver Brown. “The weather was rainy this morning, but got nicer. It was really nice to see how many came out from Team 11, our high school, other schools and college players. It was a really good turnout.”
Said Damon Brown: “It’s been great watching Oliver getting involved with Team 11. I love the way Joey coaches and this is a testament with the amount of support he has here. It shows in how passionate he is; being involved in lacrosse, school and the Penn Charter community. He is a special guy and we wish him well as he fights cancer. I am happy Oliver has him as a Team 11 and now a Penn Charter coach.”
Ryan Kilpatrick, a former Salesianum School and Duke’s LC great who played with Sankey at UNC and coaches with him on Team 11, said Sankey’s spirit has carried over to the community that is supporting him.
“It’s awesome,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s very very overwhelming to see all the Penn Charter, Philly and UNC and lacrosse community – with people coming from all over the country. It’s special to me. We played together with Dukes lacrosse, lived together through college and lived together in the city. It’s not surprising to see this with the way he carries himself and attacks things.”
Penn Charter head boys’ lacrosse coach Pat McDonough also was pleased to see the support Sankey has gained.
“Some people have known Joey for a short period of time and some have known him his whole life, and I think the support the Penn Charter and lacrosse community is really amazing,” McDonough said. “Supporting cancer (fundraising) has been around a long time, but when someone you know is affected by it it brings people out in full support.”
Tony Resch, a former Penn Charter player and coach and the current La Salle coach, coached Sankey in the MLL with the Charlotte Hounds. He said Sankey’s personality and positive attitude are an inspiration.
“I think, first and foremost, this is a testament to the type of player and person Joey is and the way he conducts himself and interacts with everyone in the community, from youth players to the best players in the world,” Resch said. “This is of no surprise to me because he’s just that caliber of person.”