BY HANNAH HYAT
Salisbury University’s students are convening to support senior Jack Ferguson, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer last month.
A little over a month ago, Ferguson said he was preparing for his first week of senior year. He was excited for his last season on the basketball team and on track to take his medical school entrance exams after graduation.
Instead, Ferguson is recovering from his second round of chemotherapy. But, he is not alone.
SU students are rallying around the senior, who was diagnosed with histiocytic sarcoma cancer last month. Students from various clubs and sports teams have come together to help support Ferguson and his family cover medical expenses.
“Fight for Ferguson” is the title of a three-on-three basketball fundraiser which will be held in Maggs Activity Center from 5 to 9 p.m. this Sunday. The event was created to support Ferguson. Admission for the event is set at $1, but there is a $5 fee to participate in the tournament.
It was the weekend before the start of school when the senior first began to notice early symptoms of his illness.
“I was feeling OK. I was getting some symptoms — the main problem was my spleen,” Ferguson said. “It was kinda like getting bigger and bigger because that is where a lot of the cancer was.”
After the pain started to become unbearable, Ferguson said he went to Peninsula Regional Medical Center for almost five days before he was transferred to John Hopkins Hospital.
The senior stayed at John Hopkins for more than a week before he got any answers.
“So it was almost a week and half to two weeks. From there, they basically eliminated a whole bunch of options, like they thought it could’ve been an infection,” Ferguson said. “Once they had eliminated all those options, they basically went and said it is most likely a cancer — they are not really sure what type.”
After receiving the shocking news, Ferguson returned to his family. The Ottawa native felt the best way to handle the situation would be at home in Canada.
“At that point, we had the opportunity, I was stable enough to be able to fly back because we knew we had insurance down there [in Salisbury],” Ferguson said. “But as soon as you start getting into surgery and chemo, all our coverage is in Canada, so might as well be here.”
The basketball player was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer known as histiocytic sarcoma. According to The Society of Medical Oncology, histiocytic sarcoma is an extremely rare malignant neoplasm that accounts for less than 1 percent of all hemato-lymphoid neoplasms.
“There are hardly any cases ever recorded,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said his doctors in Canada have been diligent in their research. But, due to scarce information, they are still learning about the disease themselves.
“My treatment is not like a trial run, but they are, like, trying different chemos, so they got to learn also,” Ferguson said. “The doctors here in Canada are talking [to] the doctors at Hopkins and specialists all over the country to really kind of narrow this down because for a lot of them, it’s new. They are trying to figure out the best way to treat it.”
The senior admitted after the initial shock, the life-changing news has been a challenge.
“Obviously, at first it was like, I mean, I don’t know … it was a huge shock. You don’t even — basically, going into my senior year, like excited for basketball, everything like that, and I had kind of my last year planned out with my last few courses I needed and then would have been — you know, the next step would have been focusing on the MCAPS –something like that, but obviously this happened,” Ferguson said. “Just to be able to accept it has been tough. But I think, I don’t know, I’m a very positive person and I take it day by day.”
Ferguson said his family and friends have been a huge support system. As an only child, he said the main reason he is able to get through any of this is thanks to them.
Ferguson said it was an incredible surprise to hear about the organized fundraiser.
“When I heard about the people organizing this event, when I first heard it was like a — I don’t even know — like a super humbling and kind of — you know, like, just a very honored, heartwarming feeling,” Ferguson said. “It was just like an incredible thing; it was surprising, but in a great way.”
But, Ferguson believed the gesture fit the characteristics of the SU community.
“It is just a whole SU community and it’s pretty amazing,” Ferguson said. “It has been awesome to see how many people are there for me.”
Senior Chase Kumor said that was his exact goal when he heard the news about his closest friend at SU. Kumor said having a basketball tournament as a fundraiser would be a good way to support and represent Ferguson.
“We wanted to do something that would show Jack that we got a lot of people behind him — he is not in this alone, and first we were going back and forth between a few things,” Kumor said. “He loves basketball, so since Jack may not be here for the event, it’s something that kinda that resembles [him].”
Kumor worked alongside senior Gabrielle Mongno, who wanted to help in any way after hearing the news. The pair did not realize how large the event would become.
“We ended up combining — we were like, ‘Guys, we need to do something for Jack,’” Mongno said. “We were not planning something this extravagant, but then I talked to Chase and we combined ideas, so now it’s a big thing.”
Mongno said they had to meet certain requirements to hold an official fundraiser on campus. After getting permission from the university, Ferguson’s family and the NCAA, she is excited to see the event finally play out.
“It’s been a long step process, but we’re finally towards the end of it and ready for Sunday,” Mongo said.
Featured photo by Emma Reider