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Video: Syracuse punter Rob Long chronicles his road back from brain cancer

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

Two years ago, former Syracuse punter Rob Long was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The two-time captain had been suffering incurable headaches and nausea and his girlfriend encouraged him to see team trainers about the problem. On Dec. 2, 2010, after a multitude of tests, doctors told Long they had found malignant cells in his brain.

"Everyone else was standing but me and I kind of went to the floor and just sat there and I told them to leave me alone and let me hear what the surgeons are telling us," Long's mother, Mary Jo, said. "All I remember is Robert saying, 'OK, what do I do? What's next? Let's go. Get it out of here. Let's go. He was not even hesitating at the news of how bad it was. I knew from the way they reacted and what they were saying that this was not good news. And he's like, "OK, fine. What do I do? What's my next step?"

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Cancer had already ravaged Mary Jo's family. He father died of a brain tumor when she was seven and cancer also took her mother, brother and one of her sisters. Her other sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer the same day Long told his parents he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The above video, which is up for a New York Emmy Award, chronicles Long's story, his fight and how he ultimately beat cancer after six and a half weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. Even more remarkable was that during his treatments, Long stayed faithful to his workout program and training for a potential shot in the NFL. Three months after surgery, he was preparing for Syracuse's pro day.

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(Charles LeClaire/Getty)

"I think a lot of people are surprised with what I've been able to do while going through treatment," Long said. "Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. It isn't in my personality to sit around all day. I've been very fortunate with the way my body has reacted to medication and treatments and I feel so great.

"I'm very thankful every morning that I wake up. I have the energy to do what I do. I have the energy to go down to the hospital. I have the energy to get dressed and get myself ready and do whatever I have to do. And then on top of that, I'm physically able to go and workout and I can kick and I feel very lucky and very fortunate that I'm able to do that. I never take that for granted."

Long had a tryout with the Cleveland Browns last year, but didn't stick. However, he's confident, now more than a year removed from being cured of cancer, that after months of hard work, teams will be more willing to take a chance.

Most of us know someone who has had a bout with cancer and Long's story is inspiring especially given his family history. This is a long documentary— about 23 minutes — but it's worth the time and emotional investment.

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