Standing on a patch of grass somewhere in Falls Church, a boy named Spencer Goold will pick up a lacrosse stick today and feel rejuvenated. You could say he’s eager to practice his cradling technique. You could say he’s pumped about the start of his high school team’s regular season. You could even say he’s just excited to be here on a patch of grass rather than in a stuffy classroom.
But those would only be half-truths. The real reason for the feeling washing over the Falls Church High senior comes from knowing that a year ago today, he wasn’t sure he’d be here at all.
Confined to the doldrums of his hospital room, Spencer laid in bed last March and remembered a different sort of feeling that came over him on the lacrosse field a few months earlier. Fatigue set in quickly as he went through the motions for his club travel team at RebeLax, prompting a visit to a doctor who suggested he might be suffering from allergies.
A return to the field brought more of the same: immediate fatigue followed by vomiting on the sideline. Finally, on Jan. 10, 2012, a blood test revealed the terrible cause: leukemia.
The spring of 2012 took away Spencer’s battles on the lacrosse field and replaced them with a battle for his life. He would spend five months in Inova Fairfax Hospital enduring the ravages of chemotherapy, all the while fighting for the better half of the 50/50 diagnosis he was given.
“The whole experience we always say that we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy,” said Glen Goold, Spencer’s father.
Even the best treatment couldn’t stop some of the complications that cancer inevitably spawns. Among other grisly episodes, Spencer needed to have his appendix removed after coming down with appendicitis. A short time later he contracted a bacteria that forced him to be quarantined. For six weeks he wasn’t allowed to leave his room, and anyone entering the room had to be scrubbed down before and after their visit.
Yet none of those trials kept him from getting better. Buoyed by frequent visits from family, friends and lacrosse teammates, Spencer entered his final round of chemo last April with a fresh dose of optimism, one that helped him venture into the hospital’s courtyard on occasion to toss it around with his dad.
“That was when I was really starting to think about getting outside and getting back into life,” Spencer said.
Liberation arrived on May 31, the day he was finally released from the hospital. Although doctors won’t officially declare him cancer-free for five years, Spencer is currently in remission and, thanks to completing his core classes while in the hospital, on track to graduate this spring with the rest of his classmates.
Now the Goold family — which includes five children — is back to living a more normal lifestyle, one they say would have been unattainable without the persistent support of the community around them this past year.
“Going through what we’ve been through, no one should have to go through that,” Glen said. “When you go through it, you’re desperate for hope. You just want something to cling onto that says, ‘We can make it through this. We can get through it.’ Any ray of sunshine or ray of hope for people that are going through it I think is incredibly meaningful just to help them keep fighting.”
That outlook drove Glen to action last fall. Fueled by a burning compulsion to help other victims beat cancer, Glen turned to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to eradicating blood cancer. In November he joined a branch of the LLS called Team in Training, which has raised over $1.3 billion to fund lifesaving research through participation by amateur athletes in various races across the country. A longtime endurance athlete, Glen registered to run alongside 120 other Team in Training members in this Saturday’s Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in Washington, D.C.
It’s an ambitious undertaking, especially considering he’s only run in three marathons, the last one being in 2008.
“As I crossed the finish line I said, ‘Never again,’” Glen said.
The day after the race, Glen will begin training for the Montauk 100-mile bike race that will take place in Long Island later this spring.
“Honestly I just think he’s crazy,” Spencer said.
Glen’s goal has been to raise $10,000 dedicated to cancer research through donations to the family’s Team in Training fundraising campaign. They’re nearly there, having raised $9,445 to this point (http://pages.teamintraining.org/nca/rnrusa13/ggooldnsbx).
In the meantime, Spencer has been preparing for athletic endeavors of his own, as his Falls Church squad begins its season Friday against McLean. Having notched 34 goals during the junior varsity season his sophomore year, Spencer is already making his presence felt for his first and only season at the varsity level. He racked up four assists in a scrimmage against Marshall before notching his first goal in a scrimmage against T.C. Williams last week.
Spencer’s efforts to regain old form this offseason were geared toward a singular purpose: he wants to retake the field as a productive player, not a charity case.
“He wants to contribute because he should be there,” said Falls Church coach Carson Dye, whose team is aiming for its first National District title since 2008. “It’s definitely not, ‘Let’s win one for Spencer.’ I don’t think he’d want that at all. I think a good leader realizes it’s not about you, it’s about other people, and he definitely has that attitude out there. I think that rubs off on his teammates.”
As long as he stays on the field, Spencer’s rejuvenation will continue to grow in all areas off it.
“It’s just not taking life for granted because you never know when you could be prevented from living life how you want to,” Spencer said. “I guess the biggest thing that I got from the hospital is that you’re always going to regret the chances you don’t take more than the ones that you do. You might as well just go for it.”