Every Monday night at the Juan de Fuca Curling Club, Ryan Cassidy’s juvenile rink competes in the men’s league.
Occassionally they’ll manage a win, but more times than not, it’s losses with valuable learning experiences along the way.
But for one key member of the rink, second Lucas Savage, this curling season — and the last two years as a whole — have been more of a battle for his very life.
The 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Belmont Secondary was diagnosed with T cell lymphoblastic lymphoma — a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma — back in December of 2010, the cancer forcing him away from the game he loves.
Along with skip Cassidy, third Mat Macdonald and lead Derek Chandler, Savage returned to competitive curling this season and the foursome won a berth to the Tim Hortons B.C. Juvenile Championships, slated for next month in Prince George.
“He left the game of curling not by heart, but on ice,” says Lucas’s mom Dana Savage. “He was well supported by the men’s league and the juniors here.
“The goal for Lucas has always been to come back. He slowly immersed himself last year, playing on a Monday night men’s league with a group of friends and an adult, and he had a great time.
“At the end of the year he decided, ‘No, I need to come back, full-time competitively,’ ” she says.
So, between chemotherapy treatments, Lucas began his search and Team Cassidy picked up the young man.
“He was very lucky. It’s been interesting, between treatments,” says Dana, who is so proud of her son’s team’s accomplishments, on and off the ice.
In fact, Lucas had his last lumbar puncture for his treatment and maintenance just four days after earning a berth to provincials at playdowns in Powell River. The Savage family is hoping that treatments will be complete by the end of April.
“I missed every bit of it,” Lucas says of his absence from the sport he’s played since Grade 5.
“It has been good therapy for me. I just try and stay positive and hope for the best,” he adds. “I’m really surprised with how far we’ve come.”
Dressed in their Loudmouth Pants — the attire that pro golfer John Daly and Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud has helped make famous on the curling ice — the Cassidy foursome has clicked from the start.
“I love every bit of playing second,” says Lucas. “No major pressure setting up the game or finishing the game.”
“He’s been there for everything with us. We’re all good friends and we jelled right away,” says Cassidy, a 14-yeard-old Grade 9 student at Dunsmuir. “I had been curling with Derek for a while. Mat joined the team last year and I knew Lucas from a couple of years ago.
“We didn’t know if he was curling this year. We emailed his mom. He wanted to play and it’s worked out really well.”
The team won a B.C. berth at playdowns in Powell River defeating Duncan Silversides of the Victoria Curling Centre two of three times to advance.
“I, personally, thought we could make it here. I thought, as a team, we pulled through and did quite well,” says Chandler, 14, who attends Grade 9 at Esquimalt High.
As for provincials?
“There are a lot of good teams that also competed in juniors,” says Macdonald, 16, a Frances Kelsey Secondary student. “Top four would be good.”
“I expect for them to go and have fun; learn a bunch; just enjoy themselves and get used to the competition,” says coach Julie Semenchuk.
But there is no denying Lucas has already won the biggest battle.
“We can see the light. Looking back on it, it’s something you never forget,” mom Dana says of the initial diagnosis. “You don’t wish it on anybody.
“He had some big hurdles to come across, but he’s made it. He’s always been positive and this [curling] is what kept him going.”
The group is now hoping to raise funds to help the team offset travel costs and donations can be made through email@example.com.
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