From The Buffalo Bandits
Over the course of his 16-year NLL career, Shawn Williams has developed a reputation as one the league’s strongest players.
These days, Williams may no longer be considered the strongest person within his own household.
That distinction belongs to Williams’ seven-year-old son, Tucker. The avid lacrosse and hockey player is the youngest of the three Williams’ kids that that reside in Oshawa, Ont. Tucker is now involved in one of the toughest battles of his young life.
Several weeks back, Tucker’s voice became muffled. “A number of people get sick around this time and he never missed a beat,” Williams said. “We just thought nothing of it.”
Two weeks ago, Tucker’s voice became more muted, and he also had some troubles eating. Williams’ wife, Tamara, decided to take a look inside Tucker’s throat. Fearing that Tucker may need his tonsils removed, Williams took his son to an urgent care facility.
“They told us that we should go to the hospital, and referred us to another doctor in Oshawa,” he explained. “From there, we were referred to someone at Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital.
“As parents, this was a scary experience because the unknown was there. Then we found out that there was a mass. Hearing that word, your brain goes towards graver situations.”
Williams returned to Sick Kids Hospital last Tuesday with Tucker. The news was unfortunate, but hopeful.
“The doctor just walked into the room with the look on his face,” he said. “There was a mass present, and without going inside, he could not tell us the exact situation. He gave us his thoughts and said there’s a good chance that everything will be taken care of.”
Tucker, who faced an uncertain status, was focused on other things. He just wanted to take part in his team’s hockey game on Wednesday, but his parents held him out.
“He was very upset with me that he couldn’t play,” Williams said. “But when he went to go hang out with his friends, they observed that he seemed to look worse. He had more troubles sleeping that night and our doctor sent us back to Sick Kids on Thursday.”
Tucker was scheduled for surgery last Friday morning, and the surgeon removed a tumor comparable to the size of an egg from his mouth and throat area. The surgeon also performed a biopsy, and the results were stunning: Tucker was diagnosed with Stage III Burkitt Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is the fastest growing human tumor, and can often be fatal if left untreated, with intensive chemotherapy being the best treatment.
“You knew that he was in a lot of pain,” Williams said. “But he was all smiles. He was just Tucker. I heard that a nurse stated that Tucker was ‘braver than brave.’ He was going to get through this.”
The doctors counseled Williams and his family after the news. “Very treatable,” Williams remembered them saying. “We obviously walked out of that room scared, but knowing this was a very curable, treatable form was obviously ensuring to us.”
Hours later, Williams had a choice to make. Williams opted to head towards Buffalo for last Saturday’s game against Rochester. “There was not a doubt in my mind that I would be on the floor for Tucker. I have the easy part. He obviously, went through the hard part. And, as a family, we had to go through with this.”
An emotional Williams recorded four points (2+2) and was selected by his teammates as their “212 Player of the Game.” While Jamie Rooney, Joe Resetarits, Chad Culp and Mark Steenhuis each added an assist on Williams’ two goals, the greatest assist came from Tucker.
“Right before Tucker left for Sick Kids, we had a shootout in our living room,” Williams said. “He grabbed my stick and said, ‘I have to put some magic into this stick for you.’ He scored on me. The emotions were crazy for me on Saturday.”
When Williams returned home on Sunday, Tucker was talking and eating as if nothing had happened to him. Sick Kids provided a dose of chemotherapy on Monday, and Tucker has progressed over the course of the week.
“He’s responded really well to everything,” Williams said. “The doctors are pleased. Tucker went for a scan today, and the hope becomes there is some form of reduction so the next phase of chemotherapy can occur. His spirits are unbelievable, though.”
Tucker has remained strong throughout it all. He communicates with his nurses regularly as to what he can and what he can’t do, and loves to spend time in the hospital’s video game room and play bubble hockey.
“Things are scheduled around that,” Williams said. “He’s still the Tucker that we know. He’s not feeling sorry for himself. He knows that he’s in for the long haul, and he’s given strength to all of us.”
Tucker has set an example of courage for the entire lacrosse community, a close-knit group that has rallied around Williams and his family.
“The support from the lacrosse community has been overwhelming in a great way,” he said. “Our lacrosse community is second to none and the response has been unbelievable. I’m still getting texts from people every day. The lacrosse community is definitely the best community you want to belong to.”
Tucker’s support hashtag -- #BraverThanBrave -- trended yesterday in Canada. Next up is a website, as BraverThanBrave.com goes live on Friday. Fans are encouraged to check out the website to follow Tucker’s courageous journey.