SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Less than a year after being diagnosed with cancer, Minnesota Swarm defenseman Joe Wasson today re-signed a one-year contract with the team, noting that his health has returned to full strength since undergoing chemo and radiation therapy treatments earlier this year.
“It feels good,” said Wasson in regards to re-signing with the Swarm. “I had a big interruption in my life, but things are back on track and the way they were before. Everything is looking good.”
Wasson’s diagnosis came at an unfortunate time, as he learned the news shortly after he had earned a spot on the Swarm’s 2012 practice squad. Having grown up watching both his uncle and brother play in the NLL, Wasson’s chance to play professionally was put on hold last season as he underwent treatment.
“It was definitely tough, especially with the timing because I had just made the team,” Wasson said. “Everything was going pretty good in my life. It was definitely shocking news.”
Through it all, the Peterborough, Ontario native remained mentally tough and determined to keep his dream of playing professional lacrosse alive. “It was a goal of mine to get back,” he said.
Wasson, 23, received some encouraging news when his doctors informed him that his form of cancer was curable, and not life- threatening. “It made it a lot easier for me to deal with it mentally, knowing that my life was not in danger,” Wasson said. “But, (I was told) it might take a little bit of time, but I’d get over this and be okay.”
With his family, friends, teammates, and coaches supporting him every step of the way during his treatments, Wasson was flown out by the team to Xcel Energy Center last April to attend the Swarm’s Hive Cares Night, an annual event that helps raise money for cancer research. That evening, the Swarm wore No. 16 patches in honor of Wasson and with their teammate in attendance and in the back of their minds, the Swarm defeated the Philadelphia Wings 15-10.
“It was really unbelievable,” said Wasson, who along with his family, were honored during the game’s ceremonial ball drop. “I’ve never had anything like that; I’m a quiet, shy guy. I had never really been in the spotlight before. It was a really touching moment for me and my entire family.”
Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan said that “it was an emotional night” for everyone involved. “He was a kid that grew up in my hometown and when you see a kid with that disease, you only hope for the best.”
With the opportunity to once again fulfill his dream of playing in the NLL, Wasson said he is eager return to training camp this year. His coach, is equally as excited. Last year, the 6-foot-1, 155-pound defenseman impressed Sullivan with his knack for making plays on defense with his physical play and ball awareness skills.
“This is a really good story about a young man, who quietly just wants to play in this league and is constantly reaching out to us to make sure that we know that he wants to be here,” Sullivan said. “He’s asked me numerous times now to hold a spot for him in training camp so that he can prove that he can beat this thing.”
After completing a month-long radiation treatment in May, the final stage of his treatments, Wasson said it took him a few weeks to recover and get back in shape. Since then, Wasson has received positive news from his doctors. “I went back at the end of the summer and they said that it’s going away, and I haven’t had any ill effects since then,” Wasson said. “I’m perfectly, 100-percent healthy.”
The one-year contract for Wasson is currently pending league approval.