By Karl Younkman
The Wellington Daily News
The hope and prayer of anyone's life is good health. Now and again, those hopes and prayers are dashed by sickness and disease.
When a person's health is threatened twice inside of 18 years it takes a strong individual to stand and fight against that sickness.
Tanner Creed is a living example of a warrior against cancer, which been tamed twice in his short life. In the 7th grade, Tanner was diagnosed with Willms Disease. The cancer attacked his kidneys. A disease that normally afflicts a person before the age of 5, the older they are when it does hit, the harder it is to eradicate.
The doctors went after the sickness with chemotherapy, and at last had to remove one of Tanner's kidneys. With that procedure, it seemed Tanner had licked the sickness. It was time for him to realize a dream and start concentrating on the sport he loves: football.
South Haven High School, which Tanner attends, is a school that believes in football. Tanner wanted to be a part of that tradition in the worst way, and Tanner's teammates wanted him to be a part of it too.
"When I was a freshman, some of the seniors gave up their starting position so I could play in the game," said Tanner. "They were really supportive and pushed me in practice as much as they could."
Tanner's coach, David Hughes, was a part of the support staff that helped him along.
"We saw that Tanner had a passion for the sport and we were going to get a 99% great attitude from him," Hughes said of his player. "In practice, every down and every drill he gave us 100% effort."
Tanner's mother, Elisa, speaks highly of Hughes and the way he approached her son and his sickness. "Coach Hughes supported him, but never really babied him when he was on the field," Elisa said. "And later on, when he was in the hospital, he would be sure to check on him."
Tanner was forced back to the hospital in 2009.
"One day in practice I started to get chest pains," said Tanner. "Coach told me to take off practice and see the school nurse." From there, he went to Dr. Steve Scheufler, who after more tests and x-rays found a small spot on one of his lungs.
"I had a bad feeling it may have been cancer," says Elisa. "It was a spot on his lung that was 1 centimeter in size. And that is the size that determines if surgery is necessary."
So back to the operating table it was for Tanner; this time, to remove that spot on his lung.
Only months later, Elisa started to feel sick. "In December of 2009, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer," Elisa said.
Page 2 of 3 - Doctors performed a double masectomy on Elisa. They told her that if she made it three years, she may have it beat. It's been four years now.
The mutual support that mother and son have for each other is evident.
That support did not entirely manifest itself at the high school. "Tanner was held back because of the time he was in the hospital," said Elisa. "When he was a junior, he had to lunch with the sophomores and so forth. He did finally catch up on his school work, but with really no help from the administration."
After Tanner's relapse and surgery, and subsequent recovery, he was not allowed by the school to play football his sophomore year. "He lacked a half credit to become eligible to play," explains Elisa. " I contacted the Kansas High School Association of Athletics to see if there was some leeway to work with us, but they never really followed up on it."
And so, Tanner set his sights on his remaining two years of eligibility.
"With all the pain and hard work in recovery from both surgeries, I didn't want anything to stop me from playing my last two years," Tanner says. "My teammates were all very supportive and they pushed me in practice. And so did coach Hughes."
Hughes remembers fondly the gentle ribbings he used on Tanner. "After a particularly hard day in practice, we would sort of tease him, like, 'oh, you never really had to do anything has hard as this', you know, just to lighten the mood," said Hughes. "He always responded very positively and played with a lot of passion. Years ago, someone told me the naturals are not really the ones to spend time with, it's the kids that show that greater desire. Tanner was certainly one with desire."
That desire led Tanner to a second team all-South Border League selection as an offensive lineman after the past season concluded. This was no small feat for a player that stands 5'9" and weighs in at 150 pounds.
Elisa says she was at first reluctant to see him work so hard. "Tanner would always seem to do more sprints and burpees at practice," said Elisa. "When I wondered if the coaches should take it easy on him, he would say, 'Mom it's my choice."
Another great support arm was the summer job at the farm of Kevin and Kalen Fitch.
"Kalen is such a big motivator, and he's really helped me in my recovery and my sports," said Tanner.
Fitch will be helping Tanner on the basketball floor this winter as he takes the reigns of the Cardinal basketball team this year. Tanner's uncle, Mark Creed, will serve as assistant.
"Tanner really considers Kalen a brother," said Elisa. In a family with four sisters, a guy can use a brother to be around.
Page 3 of 3 - Tanner's experience on the farm has led to his decision to enroll in the John Deere school of mechanics.
"I haven't decided on Garden City or Fort Scott yet, but it's really what I want to do after working with the Fitch's John Deeres'," said Tanner.
Things are looking up for Elisa, as well. "I've been going to school to become a nurse," said Elisa. "I've been attending Wichita Area Technical and I'm ready to take the test. Next year, I should be in nursing."
With the practical education out of the way, and the experience of both Tanner and herself to draw from, success in the nursing field- as well as the football field- seems assured.