Rowdies Highlight Young Cancer Survivors

By Amy McSweeney - August 22, 2023

A basketball injury. A car accident. Jorge Lara and Sydney Hampton, both young and carefree, had no idea how trauma like this would uncover something much more serious.

More Than a Broken Ankle

In 2021, 33-year-old Lara fractured his ankle while playing basketball. After nursing his injury for three months, he still had excessive swelling. Doctors told him everything was normal and the swelling would go away. Months later when it hadn’t, he had an MRI.

It was a tumor.

“Cancer wasn’t even in the initial conversation, just the broken ankle,” Lara said.

Jorge Lara and his girlfriend celebrate a Rowdies win.
Jorge Lara and his girlfriend celebrate a Rowdies win.

Lara was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He received numerous rounds of chemotherapy over the next two years, as well as reconstructive surgery on his right ankle in 2022. He had to learn how to walk again.

Lara was treated at Moffitt Cancer Center and took advantage of many resources to distract him from his diagnosis.

“I went down to the Adolescent and Young Adult room to play video games for hours,” Lara said. “I did yoga, got a massage and even had a volunteer bring a dog up to my room.”

For those facing a cancer diagnosis, Lara suggests leaning on other patients for hope.  

“Ask your nurses if anyone is ringing the bell so you can cheer on fellow patients and see it as motivation,” Lara said. “I got to see three people ring the bell and it fueled me to make it to the end. When it was my turn, I wore a Michael Jordan T-shirt for my bell ringing because I felt like I had won a championship.”

Fateful Car Accident

Three months after Sydney Hampton lost her father to cancer, the 17-year-old got into a serious car accident that injured her arm. Through the trauma, doctors discovered a tumor growing under her left tricep. She ultimately was diagnosed with stage 3 aggressive undifferentiated pleomorphic humeral sarcoma.

Sydney Hampton, 23, will graduate from the University of Tampa this fall.
Sydney Hampton, 23, will graduate from the University of Tampa this fall.

“I think deep down I knew what the results would be and that this was just another fork in the road. My dad never complained or had a bad attitude toward his cancer, and he was 100% my motivation. Whether he was with me physically or spiritually, nothing was going to stop me.”

After four surgeries and numerous rounds of chemotherapy, Hampton, now 23, is in remission. Cancer has left a lasting impact on her life. Her diagnosis delayed her a semester of college. However, she will graduate from the University of Tampa this fall with a degree in psychology.   

“My dad would always say, ‘This too shall pass,’” Hampton said. “My advice for those facing a cancer diagnosis is to always look at the positives. Never give up, fight hard and most importantly the cancer community is more than just that, it’s family. You’re never alone.”

Rowdies Recognition

The Tampa Bay Rowdies celebrated Lara and Hampton Aug. 12 at Al Lang Stadium. Leila Wilson, sarcoma clinic primary nurse for Dr. Odion Binitie, served as the honorary coin toss captain. The Rowdies beat Monterey Bay, capping off the night with fireworks. 

Moffitt nurse Leila Wilson was the honorary coin toss captain.
Moffitt nurse Leila Wilson was the honorary coin toss captain.

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Amy McSweeney Community Relations Coordinator 813-745-3862 More Articles

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