Editor’s note: Jon Namer is a legend in the lacrosse community. He didn’t star at Cuse or Virginia, but once you hear his story (and see him play!) you too will be a fan. He’s proof that there is more than one path to lacrosse greatness, no matter what challenges life throws at you.
My name is Jon Namer and I’m 23 years old. I started playing lacrosse when I was in 8th grade (at 14 years old). I loved lacrosse so much and I couldn’t get enough of it. After the season ended, I went to a lacrosse camp and then got ready to start high school, and play lacrosse there. In September (of 2002), I signed up for my high school’s first ever lacrosse club (Westlake High School) and I was on my way.
No more than 3 months later, I started getting excruciating headaches and I wasn’t myself. My mom knew something was wrong with me. I was then misdiagnosed with Aidie’s Pupil by one of my doctors. The doctor said there is no cure for it, and it’s not life threatening, and he was about to send me on my way when he said, “it’s not like we are dealing with a brain tumor or anything”.
My mom said, “let’s hope not”, and she researched Aidies Pupil on the computer. Aidies Pupil usually only occurs in one eye, and in middle aged women. So, my mom knew I was misdiagnosed and demanded an MRI. The doctor said, “it’s not like we are dealing with a brain tumor”, again, and he told my mom to call the place that performs the MRI. The MRI place said they didn’t have an opening for a few months.
My mom said that there is seriously something wrong with my son.
She was then informed that if the doctor says it needs to be done ASAP, then they can do it. Luckily, the doctor listened to the fear in my mom’s voice and we got the MRI scheduled for the very next day. No more than an hour after my MRI does that same doctor call my mom to tell her that he was wrong. And he apologizes, but there is a mass on my brain stem.
We rushed down to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, to meet with the head brain surgeon, and he informed us that I have a brain tumor on my brain stem. This was on a Friday, and he said Monday morning they had to take a biopsy of my tumor to see if it was cancerous. My tumor was in a spot where it could not be removed with surgery, only by chemotherapy and radiation. The biopsy came back positive for cancer.
I was now in a fight for my life against brain cancer.
And I was so upset that I couldn’t play lacrosse that season, but I still came to every game with my jersey on, standing with my team. I lost all of my hair in chemotherapy, and yet I was at the games with my bald head. I would even apologize to my coaches if I was late (Editor’s note: imagine that!). After every surgery I underwent, the first thing I asked the doctor was, “can I still play lacrosse?”
Lacrosse is a medicine for me. I love that feeling of being on the field and playing the sport I love. I had playing lacrosse once again to look forward to. In the middle of April of 2003 I was cancer free, and no more than 3 months later I was playing lacrosse again.
I soon realized I came back too soon and was too weak from all the chemotherapy/radiation to play at that time. However, I have played year-round ever since, even with the central brain sleep apnea, fibromialgea, chronic fatigue, chronic headaches, and the constant thought that the cancer could come back. All of my doctors feel that the adrenaline I feel when playing lacrosse gets me through each game and I get to forget about all of my health troubles for a little bit.
I was even awarded the 110% award at the end of my senior year in high school for the lacrosse season. My coach (Seth Cohen), from then on even named that award the Jonny Namer Award! After high school, I started coaching youth lacrosse. I also started playing in the SCCLA Men’s League, for the Beverly Hills Bucks. I played for that team for the last 4 years while assistant coaching youth teams for the Westlake Lacrosse Club. And this season is my first time as a head coach. I’m actually the head coach for two teams and both teams are doing very well. This summer I’ll be coaching with the LA Mavericks. And I recently left the Beverly Hills team to play for their rival, team L-A-X.
And all I want to do is just show the lacrosse world not to let anything hold you back from living your life, and doing what you love to do. I now play in tournaments all over the country with the Salt Shakerz Lacrosse Club who, by the way, wear pink in support for breast cancer awareness. Playing for the Salt Shakerz, we won the Lax Vegas Open Championship ’10, going undefeated. And I was awarded the MVP (Editor’s Note: what a lacrosse and life journey! Pretty amazing!). So I’m also showing the world that you don’t have to go to a D1, D2, or even D3 school to succeed in lacrosse.
In conclusion, I am in seven years remission from Brain Cancer, and I am proof that with practice, you can play just as well as anyone can (with PRACTICE!).
Thanks for reading,
Editor’s Note: And now for some pictures of Jonny tearing it up on the lax field!