Van Zant overcomes cancer |

Van Zant overcomes cancer

Shane Van Zant went through three months of chemotherapy treatment, consisting of 6-hour-a-day sessions. Big deal.

His cancer reached the second of four stages. Nothing to complain about. At least that’s the way Van Zant sees it.

That’s because Van Zant could identify with – and be humbled by – someone who had the same cancer he had – Lance Armstrong.

Much like Armstrong, the 2001 Dayton High graduate was able to make a quick comeback. Ten months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, Van Zant has returned to the football field where he’s a starting running back as a sophomore for Shasta Community College in Redding, Calif.

While Shasta hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts, Van Zant has. He rushed for 29 yards in eight carries in a 17-14 loss to Sacramento City in the team’s opener. Last week, he had an even better game, even though Shasta didn’t. Despite a 48-6 loss to Santa Rosa, Van Zant was still able to rush for 90 yards on 10 carries.

Armstrong’s story is well-chronicled. He was able to come back from life-threatening cancer to go on to win six straight Tour de France titles in cycling.

Van Zant followed a similar path. During his treatment, Van Zant read Armstrong’s book and that led him to believe that what he was going through wasn’t that difficult after all.

“Lance Armstrong was a huge inspiration to me,” said Van Zant, who was a standout athlete at Dayton. “I can’t say I went through much personally.”

When others hear about his experience, “they go oh my God,” Van Zant said. But when comparing what he has gone through to Armstrong’s experience, Van Zant said, “I took about half the steps Lance had to make it through.”

At the beginning of last November, Van Zant was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent surgery the first of December. But the cancer still spread basically to Van Zant’s stomach, meaning he was in stage II of four stages of the cancer’s spread.

By contrast, Armstrong went through all four stages, meaning essentially that the cancer had ravaged his body. Armstrong had two tumors in his head and 12 tumors in his lungs.

After the diagnosis in which he was in stage II, Van Zant began chemotherapy. For three months he would go through a series of five straight days of chemotherapy, six hours a day, followed by 16 days off. It was essentially the same chemotherapy treatment that Armstrong went through.

Through all of his treatment – then and now – Van Zant informed himself as much as possible. “I’m very knowledgeable,” he said.

He said when it’s something that’s this “emotional and life-threatening you’ve got to know what’s going on.”

While Van Zant can’t technically be considered cancer-free for five years, he said doctors have told him the chance of the cancer returning is slim.

“In my eyes healthy as can be,” said Van Zant about his condition. “Strong as a horse. I’m in better shape now than before I went through the surgery.”

Even after beating the cancer, Van Zant still had plenty of hurdles to clear. His eligibility technically should have been up last year, so he had to apply for a hardship waiver, which was grant.

Then there was the long road back to returning to playing shape. Anyone who has taken chemotherapy knows it essentially saps all of one’s strength.

Van Zant lost virtually all of his muscle mass due to the chemotheraphy. “After your muscle mass was broken down it’s so hard to get it back,” he said.

He began his training three weeks after his chemotheraphy. “I started jumping rope,” Van Zant said. “That was enough.”

But Van Zant was able to progress where he was able to regularly lift weights by this past summer. “I started hitting the weights every single day,” he said.

He ran on hills near his Carson City home. “I was running my own double days,” Van Zant said.

It’s reasonable to say that the main reason why Armstrong was able to survive was because he was such a fit athlete. Van Zant said his fitness was also key to his recovery.

“That was definitely a plus on my part,” said Van Zant, who has gotten back up to his playing weight of about 205 pounds. “I was in good shape and I was healthy. I’m a health freak. It played a big role getting through chemo.”

The biggest factor, though, in his recovery, Van Zant said, was his family. “I give all thanks to my family,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Depending on his eligiblity, Van Zant would like to play baseball for Shasta in the spring. He would like to continue to play football and baseball at a four-year school. “Whatever pays for my academics that’s my goal,” Van Zant said.


Sierra Lutheran High School, a private school in Minden, has gotten its athletic program officially underway this year as its competing as an NIAA varsity program at the IA level. After two years of competing as an independent, the Falcons began 1A competition in volleyball this fall.

The school has also has boys and girls cross country teams and plans to compete in boys and girls basketball and boys golf. Like any new program, the Falcons’ volleyball team is going through growing pains.

When the program began, none of the players had played volleyball before. This year all the freshmen on the team had never played volleyball before.

Still, Falcon coach Rich Harvey said he’s enjoying the experience. “The kids are fun to coach,” he said.

The team does have experience in senior setter Amber Rodarte and last year’s most valuable player, Olivia DePaoli. Other key players include Adrienne Krull, Rebekah Friedline, Lisa Galvin, Ellie Keene.

Sierra Lutheran doesn’t have its own facility, but has plans to build a facility in the future. For now, the Falcons play their home matches at the Stewart Gym.

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor. Contact him at