Bryant draws on sports to find toughness to beat cancer

Published 7:31 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

When it comes to baseball, not much has changed for Greg Bryant.

When he was a high school student at Ironton St. Joseph, Bryant was a pitcher on the baseball team. And he was a pitcher in the true sense. Not a thrower, but a pitcher.

Bryant knew what it meant to out-think his opposition. He knew he had to be mentally tough and battle hard each pitch because he wasn’t going to overpower anyone. He understood he had to be disciplined as a player.

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As the St. Joseph head baseball coach, Bryant stresses discipline and mental toughness to his players.

And it is that same discipline and mental toughness that Bryant called upon to get through the past seven months.

Just a little more than seven months ago, Bryant was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Regular treatments followed and two weeks ago doctors gave Bryant a clean bill of health.

But between the diagnosis and clearance, Bryant had to pitch to the toughest lineup of his life.

“When the doctor told me that I had cancer, my wife Laura dropped down. My head just circled. I don’t know even know what I was thinking,” said Bryant.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a blood cancer that attacks the immune system. It attacks the white blood cells. All Bryant knew at the time was that he heard the dreadful word “cancer.”

After he came to grips with the disease and his situation, Bryant began to apply what he had learned through athletic competition.

“I told my wife that I had to have a pitcher’s mental toughness. I just had to apply that to myself. I had to use my own advice,” said Bryant.

Just like riding a bicycle, that mental toughness came back.

“All that competition had something to do with my approach. It’s just in your nature. I think that had a lot to do with it,” said Bryant.

But that’s not all. With his religious upbringing, Bryant knew about the power of God and prayer. He said the outpouring of prayers from people not only from the Catholic churches from those who knew him was overwhelming. There were people stopping by his home or stopping him on the street who prayed with him or told him they were praying for his recovery.

“All the prayers people said I feel had something to do with it. I firmly believe it,” said Bryant. “I always believed I’d survive and halfway through my treatments I felt I had it beat and the prayers really helped.”

Other than waiting for his hair to grow back, baseball season won’t be much different this season than it has been in the past.

And regardless of the final record, this will be the best season of his life.


–– Sinatra ––

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.