Eastern Florida State College baseball player Jackson Woodward has begun treatment for osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that tends to impact teenagers and young adults.
The Titusville High School graduate was diagnosed recently after he began to feel pain in his ribs in April. After going through a battery of tests that confirmed the diagnosis, Woodward started chemotherapy this week at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
"I went home after the season ended and was working out by myself and started to feel some tightness in my chest muscle. I was concerned about it so went to a couple of doctors and I thought maybe I had broken a rib or something, but had more tests on a lump and was diagnosed with cancer. I had more tests and last week they confirmed the first test results," Woodward said.
"My stomach definitely dropped when I first heard it -- had two different diagnosis at one point so I got to ease into the thought of it being cancer. I went into the second diagnosis hoping they would come up with a different diagnosis. It was tough, but it is something I have to get used to."
Following this first round of chemotherapy, Woodward expects to have treatments for the next 10 weeks. After that he will have surgery to remove the cancer in his ribs and then will have more chemotherapy to make sure he is cancer-free.
"I am planning to continue to take classes during the semester. I have most of my classes online so plan to complete those and get my AA (Associate in Arts degree) in the spring," Woodward said.
During the NJCAA 2020 baseball season that was cut short due to COVID-19, the sophomore pitcher led the nation in innings pitched with 46 2/3 innings pitched, allowing just one earned run to post a 0.19 ERA, the best in the nation for any pitcher with over 25 innings pitched. His 55 strikeouts also ranked in the top 10 nationally this past spring.
"Jackson has a long road ahead of him and it is hard to understand why such a strong, healthy, incredible young man like him has been dealt this hand," Eastern Florida State College baseball coach Jason Arnold said.
"That being said, I can't imagine someone who is better equipped to overcome. He's an absolute competitor and I know with my whole heart he will beat this."
Woodward told his close friends and roommates, and Coach Arnold told the rest of the team before team meetings started in late August.
"It was definitely hard to tell the guys," Woodward said. "Today (last Wednesday) was my first time out here and I love being out here on the field with them, it is so nice to be able to be back out here with them."
The right-hander is looking forward to returning to Eastern Florida State College and to pitching again before moving on to a four-year college. Woodward has been recruited by multiple NCAA Division I programs.
Woodward will be sharing updates throughout his journey this year and status reports will be posted on the EFSC Baseball and EFSC Titans social media platforms with the hashtag 6Strong. The team will be wearing hats with 6Strong on the side this season as well to show support for Woodward who wears number six on his uniform.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Jackson and his family at this time," said Jeff Carr, Eastern Florida State College Associate Vice President of Athletics. "We are here to support him and his family anyway we can! 6 Strong!"