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Continued: For Totino-Grace wrestler, sport becomes therapy

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 28, 2014 - 5:58 AM

The choice was easy.

“I said ‘Why wait? Let’s get it over with,’ ” Joanne said.

Her cancer, called anaplastic ependymoma, was a tumor that forms near the brainstem. It’s far more common in children than adults. Her case was particularly serious: The egg-sized tumor had invaded the brainstem. The cancer was at Stage 3, often the last step before death.

A lengthy surgery removed about 90 percent of the tumor. The rest was kept under control for more than two years through radiation.

“I’ve had 33 radiation treatments,” Joanne said. “That’s the most a person can have in their lifetime. I can’t do anymore.”

In 2012, the cancer came back. Unable to undergo traditional radiation treatments, she was the recipient of a cutting-edge technology called Gamma Knife — a highly concentrated form of radiation resembling a laser that directly targets the cancer.

The tumor, now about the size of a fingernail, is still present but encased in scar tissue. The cancer might be dormant for now, but its effects have made her entire left side largely numb. Her vision is often blurry.

There’s also no assurance it will not return. Worry is a constant.

“I think about it all the time,” she admitted. “A lot of ‘What ifs?’ ”

‘How could we say no?’

Until ninth grade Lance, whose family lives in Scandia, Minn., was a product of the Forest Lake wrestling program.

But as his wrestling profile continued to rise, he felt something was missing. A born self-motivator, he took stock of what was happening around him and decided he needed more structure and support than what he thought a public school could provide.

“There were some things going on that I didn’t like, kids getting in trouble, stuff like that,” he said.

After researching nearby private schools, he settled on Totino-Grace.

“It wasn’t too big, and it felt right,” he said.

But private schools require paying tuition — something that, with the family’s medical bills mounting, seemed out of reach.

“We told him we just didn’t have the money for that,” Tom Benick said. “We asked him to take a look at other schools.”

Lance wasn’t to be deterred. Determined that Totino-Grace was the answer, he sold his old snowmobile and dirt bike and dug into his savings.

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    Totino-Grace wrestler Lance Benick is fighting to remain the No. 1-ranked high school wrestler in the nation at 195...

  • Lance Benick, center, with brother Luke and mother Joanne

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