Joey Sankey Just Finished the First Quarter of His Fight Against Cancer

PHOTO BY PAUL BOSKOVICH/PRETTY INSTANT

Joey Sankey, a three-time MLL All-Star with the Charlotte Hounds, hopes to suit up in Paul Rabil's new league, the PLL, next summer after finishing treatment for testicular cancer.


Joey Sankey had a plan to get back on the lacrosse field. Then life intervened.

Sankey, a former three-time All-American attackman at North Carolina and three-time MLL All-Star, intended to take the summer off from playing while recovering from patellar tendon surgery. He would focus on operating his Team 11 Lacrosse club and rehab in time to join Paul Rabil’s newest venture, the Premier Lacrosse League, in June 2019.

At first, he thought nothing of the discomfort he felt in one of his testicles — a dull ache he easily would have ignored had it not persisted and had it not been for his friend, Chris Layne.

Like Sankey, Layne, the former North Carolina and Loyola midfielder, was a Philadelphia prep school product. Sankey came out of Penn Charter, where he’s currently an assistant coach. Layne played at Malvern Prep.

Back in 2013, a year after playing a key role in the Greyhounds’ NCAA championship run, Layne’s doctors discovered a mass on his testicle that wound up being cancerous. He delayed surgery until after the finish of his senior season. Loyola lost to eventual national champion Duke in double overtime in an NCAA tournament first-round game.

Today, Layne lives and works in New York as an account executive for a leading B2B e-commerce company.

Thinking of Layne — not to mention others in lacrosse that survived similar episodes, like 2010 MLL MVP Matt Poskay — Sankey decided to get a physical exam. His doctor ordered an ultrasound, which revealed that he too had a mass on his testicle.

Diagnosed with testicular cancer Sept. 18, Sankey underwent surgery to have the mass removed 10 days later at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

“When you hear that word, it’s obviously pretty scary,” Sankey said. “But everyone was optimistic I’d be able to have surgery and move on.”







A biopsy of the tumor, however, showed that Sankey had a non-seminoma type of testicular cancer, which can grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. Blood tests that came back with high levels of certain protein markers confirmed that removing the tumor had not eradicated the cancer.

Sankey, 26, needed chemotherapy.

Last week, his first in treatment, he posted an upbeat photo on Instagram, looking every bit the spunky and spry athlete who carved out a reputation in lacrosse for his tenacity. Sankey’s success in the sport has come despite being undersized at 5-foot-5 and 160 pounds.

“I am lucky that testicular cancer is a very curable disease,” Sankey wrote in the post. “I will beat this and move on.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Three weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. I have started my first round of chemo this week. I am lucky that testicular cancer is a very curable disease, and I will beat this and move on. I have always believed that 10% of life is what happens to you, and 90% is how you react. I’m determined to make this negative obstacle a positive experience in my life and others! I appreciate any support in my efforts to raise awareness/ funding for Testicular Cancer, Prostate Cancer, and Mental Health through the Movember Foundation! My Family and I will also be hosting a 5K event at Penn Charter on Saturday, November 3rd. More details on 5K coming soon!! #beatcancer THANK YOU to my family and friends who have been supporting me through this!

A post shared by Joey Sankey (@jsankey11) on

According to the Testicular Cancer Foundation, the overall survival rate is 95 percent. As with most cancers, early detection produces more favorable results.

Sankey’s chemotherapy regimen — overseen by Dr. Elizabeth Plimack, a renowned oncologist at Fox Chase — includes four five-day cycles with two weeks between each phase. If all goes according to plan, he will receive his final treatment Dec. 21.

“I’m trying to think of it as a game, four quarters,” Sankey said when reached by US Lacrosse Magazine last Thursday. “I finish the first quarter tomorrow.”

Sankey knows the side effects of chemotherapy will worsen with more exposure to its contents. For now, he’s managing the nausea and fatigue by keeping both his body and mind occupied. He works out every day.

While Sankey has taken leave from his job as an admissions associate at Penn Charter — a high school filled with germy teenagers isn’t the best place for someone whose immune system has been compromised — he has put together a 5K fundraising race scheduled for Nov. 3 at the school. Proceeds will benefit the Movember Foundation, which raises awareness of men’s health issues.

“They really focus on the 5 percent of people that aren’t able to be cured and trying to increase that number to hopefully one day get to 100 percent,” Sankey said. “I’m lucky to have platform where hopefully I can reach a decent amount of people and raise some awareness of this.”

Sankey’s father, Harry, gave him a wristband that says, “No one fights alone.”

“It seems really fitting,” Sankey said, referring to an overwhelming amount of support he has received from his friends in the lacrosse community.

That includes his new employer.

Sankey, the 2015 MLL Rookie of the Year, previously amassed 124 points in three seasons with MLL’s Charlotte Hounds. He’s one of 140 players that have opted to play in the PLL rather than MLL.

“They’ve been great to me throughout this thing. You can tell they really care about the player and about the growth of the sport,” Sankey said. “That’s my No. 1 goal, to get back on the field.”

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