August 13, 2009

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Lucky Number 7: Poskay Dodges Cancer

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Four weeks after having surgery to remove a testicular seminoma, Boston Cannons midfielder Matt Poskay was back on the field, scoring four goals in a win over the Chicago Machine in his June 13 return.

© Boston Cannon

Beverly Poskay considers her son, "Matthew," the Boston Cannons' lucky charm. In his own resolute way, Matt Poskay considers himself lucky just to be playing lacrosse.

Matt has played in seven games since his June 13 return against Chicago, when he lit up the Machine for four goals to earn Bud Light MVP honors. The Cannons are 5-3 with their 2008 season MVP back in the lineup. Despite consecutive one-goal losses to finish the regular season, the Cannons earned a playoff berth as the No. 4 seed in the MLL championship weekend Aug. 22-23 in Annapolis, Md., where they will again face top-seeded Denver.

On Independence Day, in front of a record crowd at Invesco Field, Poskay recorded an assist in a thrilling 17-16 road victory over the Outlaws.

"He'll try and pretend it didn't bother him, but it probably bothered him that he didn't have a goal," Beverly said afterward. "The fact that he's out there playing..."

It is nothing short of a gigantic relief for the Poskays and their collection of family and friends.
In mid-May, a testicular lump concerned the former Virginia star midfielder enough to go see a doctor, and the results were humbling. Matt was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery was scheduled immediately.

Two weeks after the initial diagnosis, Matt received his first bit of positive news. The tumor was a seminoma, which spreads at a significantly slower pace than a nonseminoma. In a surprise to everyone, doctors told Matt he could return to the field in a month's time once the surgical incision had healed.

Surgery was considered a success.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 20-35, according to the National Cancer Institute. Exact causes are unknown.

"I was kind of aiming at that four-week mark, no matter what," Poskay said. "But that made the news even better. It was like, ‘This is curable. We can get this out of here.' And that four-week spot became reality."

But not without some additional adversity.

To minimize the chances of the cancer spreading or returning, Matt had three weeks of radiation treatments. The first week of injections led into the Denver game, but the 6-foot, 200-pounder was playing through those exhausting trips.

"It's different now because I see him in pain sometimes, I see how tired he is, and how physically ill he gets from radiology," Beverly said. "I try to be so positive and as positive as you can be. It's hard."

Cannons coach Bill Daye said he and Matt have a running line of communication as it pertains to playing time, energy and the need for rest.

Daye said Matt's four-goal showing against the Machine was nothing short of incredible.

"He missed pretty much all of training camp, and I'm sure he had his stick in his hand, shooting on goal and stuff like that," Daye said. "But at our level, to get out there and having not played in an MLL game yet this season -- just get right back out there and shoot four-for-five with four goals, that was probably the most impressive thing about him."

Apart from the scoring sheet, Matt's importance stretches into the locker room.

"He's just a very loose guy," Daye added. "He gets his teammates loose, cracking jokes, making fun of things, but he's also that guy that can take it, too, when it's given back to him."

It's a disposition that has helped fight the mental barriers of dealing with cancer, Beverly said.

"You would never even know because the way he comes across is that there is no problem," she said. "He's just who he is and he never gets down about it. It's easy to be strong with him."

Poskay was a key man on Virginia's undefeated 2006 national championship team, largely considered to be one of the greatest college teams in the game's history. He scored five goals in the 15-7 championship victory over Massachusetts, and finished the season with 41 goals and six assists, one of seven 40-point producers.

He was drafted by Boston and scored 25 goals in eight games as a rookie, then followed with 21 goals and two assists in 2007 and 34 goals and seven assists in 2008. In seven games this year, Matt has 15 goals and three assists.

If Beverly has her way, Matt will soon apply his unique talents to a new skill as cancer spokesperson. During her intense research sessions after Matt's diagnosis, she stumbled upon a Web site forum in which teenage boys were posting messages about finding testicular lumps, too "embarrassed to tell their parents."

Matt's experience exemplifies how important early detection can be.

"I would say to them, ‘Get it done,'" he said. "Like I said before, I was smart, and I was glad because I found it early. It's not an embarrassing thing at all. It's a disease, and it can end up damaging your career, let alone your life. I got taken care of early, and I was glad I did. I was back on the field in four weeks.

"I could be an inspiration."

Which is even better than being a lucky charm.

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