Somers back with cross country team after season-long fight

RYAN STONE/HERALD Bowling Green sophomore Lucas Somers recently returned to WKU’s cross country team after recovering from cancer in January. Somers was diagnosed with stage-three testicular cancer last October.

Emily Patton

What didn’t kill Lucas Somers has apparently made him much stronger.

Somers, who was diagnosed with stage-three testicular cancer last October — a disease that spread as far as his lungs — is back for a repeat freshman campaign with the WKU cross country team.

Cancer-free this time around, Somers bettered his time in last month’s Old Timers Classic at Kereiakes Park by more than a minute from his 2009 run.

Somers’ performance at the Old Timers Classic was one that shocked senior Matt Wallace and junior Jeremy Sites, two runners that still carry with them the memories of learning about their teammate’s cancer and shaving their heads in support.

“Where he is right now is pretty darn impressive regardless of the cancer,” Wallace said. “For him to have to go through that and battle that, I keep reminding him that he can keep winning. He just beat this big bad cancer, and now he is ready to keep going.”

Somers describes last fall as a “blur.” He struggled through half of his freshman season before entering a nine-week treatment program, losing his running shape, appetite and hair simultaneously.

But after the chemotherapy ended in January, Somers finally got his chance to start over, both as a cancer survivor and as a runner.

“It still hasn’t set in yet,” Somers said. “It all just happened so fast, but knowing that I can get through chemo just makes running and everything else in life a whole lot easier.”

Just two weeks after finishing treatments in January 2010, the 19 year old from Bowling Green began training again knowing the likelihood of getting in shape enough to rejoin the team was not the best.

Somers said his path back to being a NCAA Division I athlete after being a cancer patient wasn’t easy.

 He started with only running one mile, stopping every quarter mile to walk. But by summer, Somers was averaging 60 to 65 miles a week.

“I couldn’t hardly even run a mile,” Somers said. “I’d see how the spring went and try from there. I didn’t expect to be competing for a spot on the team at all, and that’s where I am right now.”

Somers’ story has also served as a motivation in competition for his teammates.

“He is in incredible shape. He beat me at Old Timers, and obviously I didn’t battle cancer,” Sites said. “Any pain or sickness I have, I try to keep things in perspective, and with running it seems something always goes wrong. But I think, ‘Lucas had cancer last year. You have nothing to complain about.’”

But Somers doesn’t feel like he’s motivation for team. Instead, the team is motivation for him.

“It was awesome to have the support of those guys, and now I want to work even harder to be there for the team — help them the way they helped me,” Somers said.

Although doctors have declared Somers cancer-free, he still has his blood work done with a chest X-ray every two months and a CT scan every six months.

It’s a process Somers said doesn’t allow him to forget about last year’s test results. He doesn’t want to forget, either.

“It puts things in perspective for me,” Somers said. “I feel lucky that I found the cancer when I did. I don’t know if I would be here right now if I hadn’t have got it checked out. I’m thankful for that. I’m glad to be where I am right now considering where I was a year ago.

He’s also happy to be racing again. “Running is what I’ve always done, and it keeps me sane. It is who I am.”

Along with Somers, a handful of newcomers have since joined WKU’s cross country team. Wallace said the rest of the team hasn’t felt the need to share what happened last fall.

“He isn’t the kid with cancer to us,” Wallace said. “He destroyed cancer. Nothing else to it.”