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Richard Demak
October 03, 1988
Two cadets on Army's team fought cancer and won
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October 03, 1988

Courage At West Point

Two cadets on Army's team fought cancer and won

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Babb performed admirably in a losing cause, rushing for two touchdowns and 119 yards against the favored Eagles. He kept his team close throughout the game, almost pulling out a win with a last-minute drive that just fell short as the game ended with BC in front, 29-24. For his effort, Babb was named ECAC Division I-A rookie of the week.

That evening, still in pain but certain that his condition was simply the result of the football hitting him in practice, Babb asked the team doctor to examine him. On Sunday morning, he was admitted to Keller, where doctors monitored his vital signs over the course of the following week.

On Saturday, still uncertain about his condition, Babb left the hospital to start the Colgate game. A vicious hit dislocated his jaw in the second quarter and left him disoriented for the rest of the day. "The only thing I remember about the Colgate game is that it was a sunny day and there were a lot of people," says Babb. He was so woozy that he asked the fullback, Ben Barnett, to help call the plays.

Later in that series, Babb fumbled at the Colgate three-yard line, and coach Jim Young removed him from the game. "They knew something was wrong," says Babb. "My legs were all wobbly." He went back to the hospital that night. "I was pissed off because I had to eat the 40 bucks I had spent on two tickets to see R.E.M. in New Haven that night."

The tests at Keller proved inconclusive, so on Monday morning he was flown to Walter Reed, just as Shultz had been a year earlier. "I was dropping my pants for the whole urology department," Babb says. "They're very good people, very good doctors, but they told me, 'Yeah, the testicle's got to come off, it's got to come off. If it's that hard, that big, it's got to go, even if it's not cancerous.' So they took it off the next day, the 20th of October, my 22nd birthday."

Five days later the doctors told Babb that he had cancer. They gave him a choice: He could have surgery right away and then face two months of chemotherapy or he could go through four months of chemotherapy. The surgery would explore how far into the abdomen the cancer had spread. Babb opted for the operation, because it was the choice that took him away from football and school for the shortest period of time. "I have a scar like this," says Babb, running his left index finger from his groin up through the center of his chest. "It's no big thing."

There are generally few side effects from having one testicle removed. "They put in a prosthesis, you can't even tell," says Babb. But, initially, the doctors did give him one piece of disturbing news: it was unlikely he would be able to father children. Says Babb: "That bummed me out because my sister has a baby girl. I love playing with her all the time. I cried for a couple of hours over that. That's the only part of this that really bothered me—about the kids.

"I was ticked off because I was finally playing ball and they took that away. Then I was upset about maybe not being able to have a family. And then I was just happy to be alive." Babb was even happier to learn in January that the original prognosis was wrong and he will be able to have children after all.

Babb is reflective and open—almost glib—about his cancer and treatment. Shultz is far less talkative on the subject, seeing his disease as just a momentary glitch—a snafu to be eliminated as soon as possible. When told he had cancer, Schultz's response was simple: "So when am I going to get rid of it? That's what I want to know. I don't care what it is or what it's called, just get rid of it."

Shultz had radiation treatments on his upper body for 2� months. Like Babb, he also had abdominal surgery. But when he's asked about his treatment, Shultz, unlike Babb, doesn't describe the foot-long scar that runs up the center of his torso.

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