The Conestoga Valley High School sophomore, who is a member of the
Buckskins' football team, has
been diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor.
I don't really worry about it,"
Justin said, after completing his classes on Wednesday. I try
to look ahead rather than behind."
Justin, 15, was horsing around with his stepbrother, Charlie Moncrief,
last spring when he felt some pain in his lower back. He didn't
think much of it. But over the next four months, the pain increased.
Still, Justin just dealt with it.
Dealt with it through football's
which often included three-a‑day practices. Through the early part
of the season, too. As a running back/outside linebacker, Justin
would have occasional high temperatures and pulled muscles on one
side of his body as he subconsciously overcompensated for the pain
on the other side.
Finally, after a sleepless week, he went to the hospital.
A biopsy found the malignant tumor around his intestines.
Doctors have told Justin that he has a zero‑to‑100 percent chance
"I could have come up with that," he said.
Despite those nebulous odds, Justin is meeting his illness
the way he would an opposing tackler or running back. He is hitting
it with all he has. Hitting, after all, is why he likes football.
"I like to hit people ‑ hard," he said. "And I don't get in
trouble for it."
Justin's teammates have seen that drive on the football field
and know that Justin will carry that same determination in the
battle for his health.
"Justin's definitely a fighter," said Ryan Thompson, one of
Justin's closest friends ' who is also on the football team. "He's
not going to give up."
Justin has had one chemotherapy session, which takes several
days, at the Hershey Medical Center and is scheduled for another on
Nov. 2. Doctors are hoping to reduce the size of the tumor and then
According to Justin, the tumor has not spread and is not in
his bone marrow. That is good news, if you can call it that. It's
much better than the original diagnosis, which indicated that the
cancer was in a more advanced state.
"Justin told the doctors that he wanted to play football this
year," said CV coach Gerad Novak. "The doctors kind of smirked a
little and then told him that while it was a great goal, he would be
too exhausted to play."
When Novak first told the team of Justin's condition, "it
threw us for a loop," according to one of the Bucks' captains,
"A lot of the players took it hard," Thompson said. "Now,
it's not as bad as they thought it was going to be and I think
Justin's going to be fine."
After the initial shock, the team came together for Justin.
Cards were sent, visits to his home made just to hang out with them.
To let him know he was still part of the team.
"Justin's a tough kid," said teammate Dan Chow. "He's
handling it. He knows what's going on but he doesn't show it. He
doesn't want to get us down."
It was prior to CV's game against Elizabethtown that the team
learned about Justin's illness. Novak and the team dedicated the
game to Justin. The Buckskins were losing at halftime, then rallied
to win in the fourth quarter.
Justin, just out of the hospital, made it to the game at the
half and then joined the postgame team gathering in the CV end zone.
It was there that Novak and the Bucks presented Justin with
the game ball. In six seasons as head coach at CV, Novak had not
found a reason to hand out a game ball.
That night, he had a reason.
"I had never seen anything like that," Chow said. "How do you
react to that? It was great to see him there and part of the team."
"Justin was a little emotional," Hershey said. "We all were."
Justin's illness has caused the players to take another look
at life. They are finding that there is more to their days than
sleeping, eating, school and sports.
"You look at life a lot differently," Chow said. "You realize
life is short and anything can happen, When they first told us, I
thought, why him? He's only a 15‑year‑old kid. How could that
happen? You think of life in a different way."
Justin's life is certainly different now but he's aiming to
get it back where it belongs. Back to where he's thinking about
sleeping, eating, school and football.
Back to where his chief worry is whether or not he got his