Golfer’s attitude helps beat cancer

West Loveland first noticed the lump on his neck last April.

He had been more fatigued than usual and thought it must be from a cold he was sure he was getting over.

He continued to prepare for his graduation from John Brown University while finishing his senior season of golf as the Golden Eagle’s top golfer.

“Nights after tournaments, we would sit around and they would ask ‘What’s that on your neck?’ and I would say “I don’t know.’ We would laugh about it and they would poke it,” said Loveland.

Loveland eventually went to the Siloam Springs Community Clinic to see what was wrong. He endured tests for strep throat, the flu and other illnesses. Neither he nor the doctors thought it could possibly be cancer.

Loveland did not get better so he went to an ears, nose and throat specialist in Rogers two weeks before his graduation. There they did a needle biopsy of the lump on his neck. The results came two days after he walked across the stage and received his diploma.

Loveland was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that can attack a person’s lymph nodes, spleen and other organs in the immune system.

“It was a shock,” said Loveland. “I am the only person in my family to have cancer.”

A few months prior to Loveland’s diagnosis, his stepfather had died from an unexpected heart attack. His mother and siblings were left wondering why all these terrible things were happening to their family.

Doctors advised Loveland to wait a semester before returning to school, but Loveland wanted to begin his next degree and not allow his treatment interfere with his life anymore than could be helped.

“In the beginning, when we were getting all of the information, I stepped out of the room,” said Loveland, explaining that he did not want to know the odds of recovering because he wanted to maintain a positive outlook.

He informed the University about his situation and began treatment at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Loveland said the people he met at Vanderbilt tried to maintain a positive attitude because of the positive impact it had on those around him encouraged him.

Every three weeks, Loveland and his mother would drive three hours to Nashville from their home in Knoxville, Tenn., undergo treatment then spend the night before driving back in the morning, where they were greeted by Loveland’s siblings.

“After treatments they would just want to cling to my neck,” said Loveland. “The youngest, who is 3, would point at my neck and ask me ‘How’s your boo-boo?”

When school started Loveland continued to seek treatment in Nashville while living in Rogers with his grandparents. During the course of his treatment, he drove or flew back to Tennessee a total of seven times.

Whenever Loveland flew, he could sense people staring at him because of the mask and gloves he wore due to his weak immune system. He also had to deal with extra airport security and was extremely cautious about anything he ate or drank.

Loveland said his professors were very understanding and allowed him to complete homework, tests and other assignments early so he would have time to recuperate from treatments.

Heartening notes and friends’ willingness to spend time with him while he regained his strength between treatments were an encouragement to Loveland, especially when he was forced to stop working at his job at Café on Broadway and also had to stop golfing.

“I did golf one or two times but I slept for 12 hours after,” said Loveland.

Loveland’s seventh and final trip to Nashville was not for treatment, but to find out if his treatment was working.

He was confirmed cancer free on Oct 4.

Once again, Loveland refused to hear the odds of his cancer returning.

“I’d rather not look forward to something to dread,” said Loveland.

He said that while not everyone has understood this decision, he wants to trust God and live one day at a time.

“Cancer can go either way,” said Loveland. “I feel like I have a second chance