In the spring of 2017, Omaha Central sophomore Max Polk didn’t know if he’d ever pick a basketball up again. This Friday, eight months after he was diagnosed with Burkitt non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which covers roughly 30% of childhood non-hodgkin diagnoses, the 6’1” guard is set to start his fifth game of the season.
“It was in May. I was experiencing stomach pains and we didn’t know what they were,” Polk said. “It got to the point where I could barely walk and the pain was so excruciating [that] we decided to go to the emergency room.”
The trauma didn’t end there. It wasn’t just a one night stay in the emergency room for stitches or extra fluids. The doctors ran tests on then freshman Polk, and the train of events kept going downhill from there.
“As soon as they saw the results of the tests, they rushed me into emergency surgery,” Polk said. “A couple days after the surgery they told us it was cancer.”
Polk was not going to back down from the fight against cancer, in part because of the support he received from his family, teammates, and so many more. He went on for two rounds of chemotherapy.
“Through the whole process, I told myself ‘I will play again’. I was so motivated and ready to play again, I would not let this stop me,” Polk said. “In mid July, [the doctors] told me I was cancer free. It was a sigh of relief point.”
His official announcement, which was released on July 19 via Twitter, came with the following:
Polk’s fight did not stop him. Soon after he was cleared, Polk could be found working in the gym. On Thursday, November 13, 2017, he started his first official game for Central since he was cleared. He came out firing, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“Stepping back on the court was the best feeling in the world. It made me realize how fast I could lose this forever,” Polk said.
Through four games this season, the sophomore is looking like he’ll be a vital asset to the Eagles’ offense, along with L.J. Wrightsell as the two are averaging a combined 21 points per game. Central returns to action on Friday, December 15, 2017, at 7:15 p.m. at Millard North.