MOUNTAIN VIEW – When Aaron Knapp would shut his eyes final spring, his hospital mattress grew to become a soccer stadium and the chemotherapy drip in his arm had no impact on his throwing movement.
The St. Francis Excessive College quarterback was not reliving previous victories. As an alternative, he envisioned the day he would lead his staff onto the sphere.
That day can be Friday.
For the reason that finish of final season, Knapp efficiently fought off lymphoma, going by means of 9 weeks of chemotherapy to make it to Friday night time’s residence sport in Mountain View in opposition to San Diego-area powerhouse Helix.
When the St. Francis offense steps onto the sphere, Knapp, 17, can be below heart.
“It was undoubtedly a journey, however there was by no means any doubt in my thoughts that I might be there,” Knapp stated.
That journey started in November 2021, when Knapp was listening to a instructor in a freshman-year artwork class. Whereas absent-mindedly rubbing his neck, Knapp felt a small lump.
Knapp stated he was involved, as have been his dad and mom Brandon and Tracy. Over the subsequent yr, he underwent dozens of medical checks, however docs couldn’t arrive at a analysis.
It wasn’t till the mass had turn into noticeably bigger that the household determined to get it eliminated, no matter what it was.
“I used to be at all times monitoring it, and by no means took it calmly,” Knapp stated. “I counsel anybody that has one thing like that to get checked out. You by no means know.”
After surgical procedure final December got here the analysis: lymphoma.
The Knapp household took the information in stride, however some near them have been understandably shocked.
“My coronary heart genuinely stopped,” stated Jackson Cahoon, recalling the telephone name from his soccer teammate and childhood finest pal. “My physique went chilly.”
Knapp had made a reputation for himself on the soccer area simply weeks earlier. Beginning rather than injured senior Matthew Dougherty, he had led a 31-12 victory over rival Bellarmine on Oct. 28, finishing 12 of 14 passes for 208 yards.
“Going into that week, it being homecoming and all the things, I used to be amped up,” stated Knapp, whose mom attended St. Francis and impressed upon her son the significance of the rivalry.
The subsequent sport was even higher for Aaron: three touchdowns in a 35-13 victory in opposition to Archbishop Mitty.
However after the season ended, Knapp knew that sharpening his passing abilities was the least of his worries.
Beginning in January, he and his dad and mom made weekly journeys to Metropolis of Hope Hospital, a famend facility positioned in Duarte, round 20 miles north of Los Angeles.
The Knapps leaned on their religion to get by means of the ordeal.
“You both imagine in God and your religion otherwise you don’t, and I feel it will get folks by means of quite a lot of issues,” stated Knapp’s father, Brandon, who performed soccer at San Jose State within the Nineties.
On remedy days, when Aaron regarded across the hospital, it wasn’t self-pity that consumed him. He felt lucky.
“Not everyone seems to be gonna make it,” he stated. “Seeing folks going by means of a late stage like that, and seeing folks in super ache, it’s one thing that makes you extra delicate.”
Knapp additionally relied on a well-known face again residence. Matt Scharrenberg, an assistant soccer coach at St. Francis, is a lymphoma survivor. His most cancers went into remission in 2021.
Scharrenberg despatched Knapp the identical up to date Christian songs that helped him by means of chemotherapy. The coach, who teaches historical past on the faculty, helped maintain Knapp’s spirits excessive with encouraging texts and the occasional meme.
“A 16-year-old having that analysis, it’s loads totally different than a 45-year-old man who could make his peace together with his life,” Scharrenberg stated.
“It meant one thing to have him in my nook figuring out he went by means of the identical factor,” Knapp stated. “He understood it higher than possibly even my dad and mom may, since he’s been by means of it.”
Knapp discovered one other supply of power in Mountain View. As a result of he took chemotherapy by means of an IV in his arm, relatively than by means of his chest, Knapp was nonetheless capable of work out together with his teammates.
Brandon Knapp stated that after one spherical of chemotherapy on a Friday, his son was in a rush to get again to the Bay Space so he may run for St. Francis’ monitor staff the subsequent day.
“We tried to tone him down somewhat bit,” longtime St. Francis soccer coach Greg Calcagno stated. “It’s like ‘Hey, I don’t want you to be prepared in April. We want you to be prepared in August. So decelerate and handle your self.’”
After 9 weeks of lengthy drives south, chemotherapy, ache, apply, encouragement and faith-based optimism, Knapp received his largest battle.
He was cancer-free.
Thanks to all my teammates, coaches, members of the family, my church, and everybody for having my again and being with me by means of this time. Prayer by no means fails. God wins. pic.twitter.com/wLEYs0CRTs
— aaron knapp (@aaronknapp_) April 20, 2023
He celebrated with a meal he wasn’t allowed to have whereas battling the illness: a burger and a milkshake.
“Among the finest meals I’ve had in my life,” Knapp stated.
Having been given a clear invoice of well being, the quarterback spent the remainder of the offseason working to get again to peak bodily situation.
Knapp’s drive and optimism all through his ordeal led to his teammates voting him as the primary junior staff captain in Calcagno’s 11-year tenure as St. Francis’ coach.
The season can be difficult. St. Francis’ non-league schedule consists of Helix and De La Salle. Then comes the West Catholic Athletic League gauntlet, adopted most probably by part and probably regional playoffs.
However after all the things Knapp has gone by means of, he’s already notched the season’s largest victory.
Now, it’s on to the video games.
“I really feel prepared,” Knapp stated.