- Associated Press - Thursday, November 25, 2010

LAWRENCE, KAN. (AP) - For coaching, the Kansas Jayhawks have Turner Gill. For inspiration, Gill and everyone else connected with the program has D.J. Marshall, a living example of courage and grace in the face of danger.

Near the once-promising defensive end’s collarbone is a scar where doctors removed a swollen lymph node and discovered cancer. Another scar on his chest marks the spot where surgeons implanted a small port to deliver chemotherapy.

It wasn’t just Marshall’s football career that was threatened. When he was diagnosed a year ago this month with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his life seemed in danger, too.

But after six months of painful treatment and a year of prayer, Marshall’s recovery appears complete. Even though there are no guarantees he’ll regain enough physical strength to play football again, he crossed one more important threshold this week when he finally rejoined his teammates at practice.

“I’m excited for him. I know he’s excited about it. And he’s looking forward to moving on to the future,” Gill said. “It’s been an inspiration for everybody to know that you have hope. You don’t ever give up, you always get back up and keep going again. You keep believing, you have faith. You have faith in your doctors, you have faith in your family, you have faith in your teammates, you have faith in your coaches. He’s demonstrated that.”

After the ordeal that has so radically changed his outlook on life, football doesn’t seem nearly so important to Marshall anymore.

But most importantly, the cancer he battled for a year now “just feels like another bump in the road,” he said.

It started with a bump on his shoulder. Team doctors told Marshall not to worry, so he ignored it. But when fall practice opened, something felt wrong. He lost 35 pounds. He was getting tired too easily and couldn’t keep up with teammates.

Coaches at first were critical. They told him to quit getting distracted by girls.

“I had people tell me I was the worst scholarship player here,” he said, “and that I was giving the least amount of effort, that I was never going to play.”

He went to Lawrence Memorial Hospital looking for answers and had a biopsy. He was in a car with his parents, who had driven up from Mesquite, Texas, when the call came. He had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

D.J’s mother broke down. Then D.J. broke down. They weren’t sure what Hodgkin’s was, but they knew it was a form of cancer.

“Just the fact that someone tells you it’s cancer, you feel like it’s life and death automatically,” Marshall said.

He began treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, Okla., in November 2009. Dr. George River, a medical oncologist at the center, gave him an encouraging prognosis _ 77 percent chance of recovery.

“I’m going to send you through hell, but you can make it out,” Marshall recalls being told.

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