Healthy Living

Stanford University's Linebacker Ryan Beecher Must Now Tackle Lymphoma

Photo: Twitter

There's no doubt that Ryan Beecher is strong. If you want just watch one Stanford University football game, you'll see that and then some. However, he is now going to have to use a different type of strength in his battle against lymphoma.

Ryan's story

While many had been following Ryan Beecher before he even went to Stanford, and saw an immense amount of potential in him for being an inside linebacker, no one could have expected what he shared on Twitter recently.

"In December, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I am receiving treatments while attending classes at Stanford. I look forward to making a full and healthy recovery," he wrote. Football isn't Beecher's only interest at Stanford, and those classes he attends are pretty impressive. He's majoring in history, and receiving excellent grades. He's on the Dean's list, a member of many honor societies, and is considered a standout student in both the Social Science and Science departments.

His tweet was met with an outpouring of love and support. Not only from people he knew, but many he didn't who had endured similar ordeals. Some were also football players, or Stanford alums, or absolute strangers. Some offered insights into their own experiences, others told him to say strong, but each included an underlying message of love and support.

He gave more information on how he was doing in a later tweet, stating, "with the help and support of my family, friends and teammates, I remain inspired to once again contribute to the Cardinal football team." His teammates are certainly standing by him, and Stanford football even tweeted recently, "No. 43 has a hundred brothers behind him #BeecherStrong."

When many receive such a serious diagnosis, their mind is automatically consumed with thoughts of treatments, and find it hard to look past that. However, Ryan is focusing on the future he is confident that he will have. Football has meant a lot to him ever since a young age, and playing for Stanford became a dream of his later on. He certainly is not going to let anything get in his way of reaching the potential he knows he has - even lymphoma.

David Kiefer is the Stanford sports information director, and has been following Beecher's story. In October, he decided to write about how integral Beecher has been to the overall success of the team, "one reason the Stanford defense tends to improve as the game goes on is because of the adjustments that defensive coordinator Lance Anderson makes during the game. Anderson, who calls the defenses from the press box, solicits input from his players, whether they're old or young, playing or not. In a recent game, junior walk-on Ryan Beecher made some suggestions that Anderson utilized during the game." Even when he is not playing, Beecher is able to assist his team and push them further toward success. When he is playing, he's pretty powerful. Ever since graduating first in his class at San Joaquin Memorial, he has had five career tackles in 14 games.

The goal of returning to assist Stanford in further football games likely comes from his family. He grew up always hearing about Stanford as his mother, sister, and aunt all graduated from the university. As a result, when he was young, he would go to see many of the Cardinal football games. Now, he's a crucial part of them, even with his lymphoma.

Benefits of Ryan's outlook

Ryan's determination to return to his team and to keep active by going to classes may actually assist in his battle against cancer as well. The Lymphoma Association says that exercise can help to reduce side effects of many treatments of lymphoma. Some benefits are increasing muscle and bone strength, lowering fatigue, helping to keep weight stable, reducing risk of infections that stem from treatment, reducing risks of thrombosis (blood clots) when on treatment, and generally heighten physical wellbeing. While these are important, the benefits also expand into mental wellbeing as well, which relieves stress and depression associated with diagnosis.

Studies took place to look into the benefits of exercise in those who are affected by either Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and found certain types of exercise are particularly useful in improving function and overall quality of life for those who are going through cancer and chemotherapy. Specifically, they found that aerobic or cardiovascular exercise can exhibit the most positive impact.

The study took place over the course of three years, and analyzed the cases of 122 patients. By conducting a review that covered 28 different types of exercise to find the impact on cancer-related fatigue. It offers significant benefits, and another analysis that looked into 44 different studies involving over 3,000 patients corroborated this data.

Now, researchers are looking into comparing relaxation and exercise to see which could truly be the better option.

However, it's important to look into how much exercise is best for those with lymphoma, as overdoing it can also cause problems. General health is important to look into, as if you are also suffering from other health problems it may be a better idea to avoid strenuous activities. Also, keep in mind that levels of exercise should be different throughout your treatment regimen, as you don't want to tire yourself out too much when you are undergoing treatment. These routines are also very personal, as some people need more exercise than others to stay motivated both mentally and physically.

If you do have lymphoma and are looking into becoming more active, a great idea is to set small, attainable goals that you can achieve every day. They certainly don't have to be huge workouts in the gym, but could be carrying groceries and climbing stairs. If you're looking for something more challenging, try going for a walk, going out and gardening, or even mowing the grass. While you might not have considered these to be workouts pre-lymphoma, you'll be surprised by how rewarding they can be now. There are even some exercises that can be done while sitting down if you are feeling too tired.

With the goals you set, add slightly more difficulty every few days or each week, ensuring that you are making progress. The Lymphoma Association suggests "begin by walking 3 times a week for 20 minutes. After a few weeks, add an extra 10-15 minute walk each week. You can also build in more 'everyday' physical activity, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you are out and about."

Some exercises, such as yoga, have shown to combine these types of exercise for particular efficacy in emotional wellbeing.

Of course, it is important to consult your doctor to ensure that the type and amount of exercise that you are engaging in is healthy and will be beneficial to your recovery. Be sure that you are taking all necessary precautions before beginning to exercise. Weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening, and aerobic or cardiovascular exercise have shown to be the most helpful.

So, while not too many people should go out and start tackling like Ryan, they can learn from his story the importance of persevering, staying active, and aiming to return to hobbies that bring them joy.