Class Act

 

Cancer shows Dan "Mac" Lynch to be the ultimate team player

By Gerry Boyle '78
Photography by Brian Speer
 

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Photo by Brian Speer
It was by no means the first time Dan "Mac" Lynch '05 had been called a team player. An athlete since he was a young kid, the Pittsburgh resident had logged three years of Colby baseball, catching behind All-NESCAC catcher Eric Roy '04. The '05 season was to have been his year to step up"and in a way he did.

But this spring it was Professor Elizabeth Sagaser (English) who described Lynch as "a team player all the way." That's because Lynch, an English major, often went to Sagaser's poetry and theory seminar directly from undergoing intravenous chemotherapy. He made it clear that he didn't want to be treated differently from any other student, and he was an active and attentive participant in class, which, by the way, dealt with poetry's relationship to mortality and melancholia, among other things. Yet Lynch made a profound impression on Sagaser with his sense of humor, joie de vivre, and what she calls "his ability to not catastrophize."

Two weeks before the baseball season got underway, Lynch was diagnosed with testicular cancer (the same cancer that befell Lance Armstrong). With Lynch, the disease surfaced as what was first thought to be a possible muscle strain. Doctors looked closer and found not only a tumor but also evidence that the cancer had found its way to Lynch's lymph system. "It went from 'You'll miss two weeks of baseball,' to it being spread to another place," he said. "It happened so quickly."

Instead of a spring baseball trip to Florida, Lynch flew home. Head shaved, down 20 pounds, he spent the semester at Colby making trips to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville for chemo.

But Lynch, who early on led younger players in pre-season workouts, continued to be part of the team, even after his illness was diagnosed. He caught in the bullpen for a time, came to practices even after he was too weak to participate. "Here he is, he's bald and he's losing weight and he's white as a ghost," said Coach Tom Dexter, "and he's excited about the team, offering input on drills. He's a class act"no question."

#sportsshorts9402#left#'Instead of being behind the plate as the baseball season got underway, he took a seat in the stands, though he was kept on the roster and was welcome in the dugout. "I don't want to get in the way," he said.

Lynch's approach to his illness is so low-key that he spent most of an hour-long interview talking not about himself but about all of the people at Colby who have supported him. "He's such a non-complainer," Sagaser said.

She made sure she e-mailed him on weekends and several times during spring break, and she scheduled a few "Mac only" office hours so Lynch could catch up on anything he missed. They talked about travel, families, teaching, waiting on tables, Italian culture, surfing"and always baseball. English Department faculty, including assistant professors Daniel Contreras and Tilar Mazzeo, Professor Laurie Osborne, everybody in the Athletic Department"they were there for him throughout, too, he said. Teammates and friends have stood solidly by him, he said, including Shareen Abbasy '05 who, before Lynch's illness, survived her own bout with cancer at Colby (see editor's desk, p. 4). "Obviously I was really upset because I know how bad it is," Abbasy said. "But I was really glad I could be there if he wanted me to be."

And he did, along with the others who stood by him. "Without them, things would have been a lot worse," Lynch said.

But not as bad as what many people go through, he pointed out. For one, he was told early on that there was a 90 percent survival rate for his type and stage of cancer. And his body seemed to handle the chemo better than many"including his classmate Abbasy. For another, his hospital stays (the first in his life) showed him that there are countless people dealing with even worse cancers. "It's a pretty big eye-opener," he said. "The idea that anybody can get anything. I definitely thought, 'There's no way I can get this if I'm healthy.'

"A college athlete, going to Colby"I have a lot of things going for me and I've still got this disease. It definitely opened my eyes."

Lynch, who will teach and coach baseball and football at St. Thomas More School in Connecticut in the fall, opened a few eyes at Colby himself, as well.