Jay Spencer; Shooting for the Stars


Tampa Bay Times

Junior Jay Spencer (23) keeps eyes locked on the opponent during the team’s season opener at Gaither. At the end of the 2012-2022 school year, he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin large B-cell lymphoma, which required six rounds of intense chemotherapy.

Luka Vaicekauskas, Features Editor

Junior Jayden “Jay” Spencer, a part of Plant’s varsity basketball team, has returned to the basketball court after a months-long battle against non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a ruthless scourge that attacks a type of white blood cell (lymphocytes) that make antibodies to fight infections. According to the American Cancer Society, about 7% of all childhood cancers are non-Hodgkin lymphomas. For recovery, six rounds of intense chemotherapy were required. 

After reoccurring feelings of weakness and body-aches, Spencer visited doctors, and unsatisfied with a depth-lacking diagnosis upon these feelings of fatigue, Spencer visited St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with one of the world’s most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  

“The news were shocking and unexpected- a lot to process at that time. I wasn’t scared or anything- but it was just a lot thrown at me,” Spencer said. 

But the news announced towards the end of the 2021-2022 school year hit not only Spencer but his coaches, teammates, friends, and most importantly- his mom.  

“It was very hard for my mom to see what I had to go through, especially because she couldn’t do anything about it. Especially as a parent, because no matter what she did she couldn’t fix what was going on, so it was very hard for her, but we got through it together,” Spencer said. 

However, no challenging experience doesn’t turn into a daily mantra, and Spencer’s battle is no exception. 

“Getting through this illness has just made me a stronger person- physically and mentally. Something that not many people go through can build character and confidence. And now that I overcame it, I feel like I have become more appreciative and grateful. Before didn’t really live by “don’t take anything for granted” but now as I saw how life can turn around really fast, I feel like I am more appreciative and live every moment at the fullest,” Spencer said.  

During conditioning for the 2022-2023 basketball season, Spencer inspired his teammates and coaches, pushing himself and being the example that not even an illness can get between the passion for the sport and a player.  

“Overcoming the illness has changed my perception of the sport by a 100%- no one else on the team or any other team that we played against went through that, but I did it, and I still play, show up to practice and conditioning, and give it my all,” Spencer said.  

With the ultimate goal of making it to districts and “bringing it back,” as well as getting back in his top shape, Spencer radiates positivity and focuses on eliminating negative thoughts. When asked what message he would send to people fighting this illness or going through something similar to what he did, Spencer did not hesitate. 

“I would use the same message as a friend told me- “stronger the battle- tougher the person,” Spencer said.  

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