It hasn’t taken very long for Shawn Williams to be reminded about the close-knit nature of the lacrosse community.
He’s seen it rally around the Buffalo Bandits forward, before and after his public announcement on Thursday that his 8-year-old son, Tucker, had surgery on Jan. 24 to remove an egg-shaped mass from his mouth/throat area.
“We had a ton of texts and emails from ex-teammates and coaches,” Williams said. “It’s overwhelming in a good way. The lacrosse community is second to none.”
Both teams wore stickers of support during Saturday’s game between the Bandits and Toronto Rock. Through an Internet connection, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Tucker during one of the breaks in play.
It was only a few weeks ago that Shawn Williams noticed that Tucker’s voice was a bit muffled, and his wife thought she could see something in his throat. The family bounced through a chain of doctor’s examinations quickly, and the decision to operate came very quickly.
Doctors found that Tucker has Stage III Burkitt Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The surgery went well, and Tucker’s outlook is very promising. Once Shawn heard that, he could think about a lesser concern — his lacrosse status. He had a game the next night. Williams never considered taking a long leave of absence or retiring.
“That never crossed my mind,” he said. “My schedule worked out. I could be there for everything. I had the full support from Scott” Loffler, director of lacrosse operations for the Bandits. “Once you get through that, if I was sitting home watching the game with him, he’d be saying, ‘Why aren’t you there?’ It was a tough decision because you want to be there with him, but you have to keep your life going.”
As for the game, Williams had a good luck charm working for him.
“The last thing Tucker did before going to the hospital, we had a shootout in the living room,” he said. “He said, ‘We’ve got to put some magic in your stick for you.’ ... He noticed I didn’t score a goal the week before.”
Shawn scored two goals and three assists in a win over Rochester on Jan. 25.
“I had a lot of emotions going on inside me,” he said. “Trust me, it wasn’t difficult to play.”
Tucker won’t be playing hockey and lacrosse with his buddies for a while. But the doctors are happy with his progress as he enters chemotherapy treatments. What’s more, Shawn’s Bandit teammates have rallied around him.
“The great thing about our organization is that we’re a family, top to bottom,” Anthony Cosmo said. “That comes from management. ... When one of our family members go through tough times, we have to help him out.”
Fans can follow his progress on the website braverthanbrave.com, which should be up and running soon.
If there’s one reason for the Bandits’ early surge in the first part of the season, it’s the play of goalie Anthony Cosmo. He’s looked like the netminder that the Bandits thought they were getting when they acquired him from Minnesota two years ago..
General Manager Steve Dietrich hasn’t noticed any technical adjustments by Cosmo.
“I think the big thing is his confidence. He’s got his swagger back,” Dietrich said. “He was questioning everything, looking at everything. Now he is showing up and playing. That’s the main thing at this level. All of them believe they are good goalies, but Anthony has that swagger again. The way he’s playing, the rest of the team is buying into it.”
Cosmo stopped 39 of 49 shots in Saturday’s game, close to the .800 save percentage that usually is the mark of an outstanding goalie. He was particularly good in the fourth quarter, when he made saves on 13 of 15 shots.