Steelers’ James Conner reveals he was told he’d die after cancer diagnosis if he didn’t get treated

Pittsburgh Steelers star James Conner was told he had one week to live after he was diagnosed with cancer.  

The running back was drafted to the NFL team in April 2017, 11 months after he was declared cancer-free.

Conner was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma while he was a student athlete at the University of Pittsburgh in 2015.

In an appearance on the Ya Neva Know: you know what I mean? podcast, Conner said that he was told he would die if he didn’t immediately seek treatment.

‘The doctor told me I had a week left,’ the 24-year-old told the host, hip-hop artist Mike Seander.

‘He said: “You got about a week. If you didn’t get this treated, you had about a week at the rate it was growing.” I think about that s**t every day.’ 

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, 24, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.  Pictured: Conner scores a rushing touchdown during a game between the Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons, October 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, 24, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.  Pictured: Conner scores a rushing touchdown during a game between the Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons, October 2018

Conner's cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, is a cancer of the white blood cells. Pictured: Conner in his 2019 Steelers team photo

Doctors found tumors in his neck and chest, and Conner was told he had a week to live unless he started treatment immediately. Pictured: Conner at the 8th Annual NFL Honors, February 2019

Conner’s cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is a cancer of the white blood cells.  Doctors found tumors in his neck and chest, and Conner (left and right) was told he had a week to live unless he started treatment immediately

Conner told Seander he knew something was wrong when he began experiencing facial swelling and night sweats.

‘Night sweats, bro. I’m getting like 15 minutes of sleep at night – like, going through it,’ he said.

‘Sleep, who don’t love sleep? That’s the worst s**t in the world. I get some tests done. I got a tumor, surrounding my heart.’

Dr Stanley Marks, a hematologist-oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – who treated Conner – said the tumors were in the young athlete’s neck and chest. 

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the part of the immune system known as the lymphatic system.

The disease occurs when cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond it, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Conner underwent 12 treatments of chemotherapy over six months and was declared cancer-free in May 2016. Pictured:  Conner celebrates during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers, December 2018

Conner underwent 12 treatments of chemotherapy over six months and was declared cancer-free in May 2016. Pictured:  Conner celebrates during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers, December 2018

Dr Marks told Yahoo Sports that the tumor in Conner’s chest was ‘enormous’, measuring between 14 and 15 centimeters. 

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, night sweats, weight loss and swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 8,100 new cases will be diagnosed in 2019 and about 1,000 people will die.

The five-year relative survival rate is 87 percent, meaning the cancer can be treated successfully even in advanced stages.

The news was especially devastating to Conner, who was named Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year just one year earlier – one of the highest accolades in college football.

He underwent 12 treatments of chemotherapy over six months, which he did while participating in spring training.

According to CBS Sports, Conner wore a mask during this time to prevent him from getting sick.

Dr Marks said that he offered Conner a private room to receive chemotherapy, but he refused. 

He played for one more year at the University of Pittsburgh before he was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Pictured: Conner plays in the NFL Pro Bowl Game, January 2019

He played for one more year at the University of Pittsburgh before he was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Pictured: Conner plays in the NFL Pro Bowl Game, January 2019

Conner's breakout season came in 2018 when he took over as starting running back for holdout Le'Veon Bell. Pictured: Conner runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, November 2018

Conner’s breakout season came in 2018 when he took over as starting running back for holdout Le’Veon Bell. Pictured: Conner runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, November 2018 

‘[He said:] “I want to be out with the other patients”,’ Dr Marks told Yahoo Sports.

During treatments, he would sign autographs and take photos with other patients and tell them: ‘I have cancer too. I’m getting chemo, just like you.’

In May 2016, Conner was declared cancer-free.

He returned to Pitt in fall 2016 and set the ACC career touchdowns record with 16 touchdowns in his final season.

In April 2017, just 11 months after being declared cancer-free, the Steelers drafted Conner in the third round as their 105th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

After carrying the ball just 32 times as a rookie, he enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, taking over for holdout Le’Veon Bell.

In 2018, Conner had 973 rushing yards and added 497 receiving yards and 13 scores. He was selected to the Pro Bowl. 

The Steelers are one of the oldest teams in the NFL are tied with the New England Patriots for the most Super Bowl wins. 

Pittsburgh has both played in and hosted more conference championship games – the deciding game of what team goes to the Super Bowl – than any other NFL team. 

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