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Giants’ LeShon Johnson Has Lymphoma

June 3, 1998

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Doctors diagnosed New York Giants running back LeShon Johnson with lymphoma after a routine X-ray found a tumor in his chest, the team said Wednesday.

The 27-year-old former Arizona Cardinal, signed by the Giants in March, met with a New York oncologist Wednesday and is ``very positive, very upbeat,″ coach Jim Fassel said.

``My doctors tell me we have a good chance to cure this,″ Johnson said in a statement. ``My family and I believe that with the help of the doctors and with the strength of our faith in God, we will get through this and I will be back on the field in 1998.″

More tests are being conducted to determine whether Johnson has Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and what type of treatment he should get. Radiation and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for the cancer of the lymph nodes.

Johnson missed his third day of minicamp Wednesday but expected to meet with the team on Thursday. He had been playing well and had no health problems, Fassel said.

``He has no symptoms whatsoever,″ Fassel said. ``Without the X-ray, nobody would have known.″

A CAT scan and biopsy confirmed the findings after the X-ray last month, the team said. Johnson had a physical after the team signed him in March, but had not had an X-ray since a physical with the Cardinals a year earlier.

Fassel said team members are concerned, ``because even though he hasn’t been here for very long, our guys like him.″

The 6-foot, 207-pound Johnson was a third-round draft choice of the Green Bay Backers in 1994 out of Northern Illinois after leading the nation in rushing with 1,976 yards.

He played in 12 games with the Packers before tearing a ligament in his left knee.

The Cardinals claimed him off waivers at the end of the 1995 season, and he had his best season in 1996, rushing for 634 yards.

Four other New York Giants were diagnosed with cancer during their careers in the 1980s, prompting concerns that the Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford, built over a landfill, was to blame. Doctors have said the environment and the Meadowlands had nothing to do with the players’ cancer.

Linebacker Dan Lloyd was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1980, and made a recovery. Offensive tackle Karl Nelson recovered from Hodgkin’s disease after a 1987 diagnosis.

Running back Doug Kotar was diagnosed in 1982 as having a brain tumor. He died a year later. In 1984, a tumor was found in the shoulder of another running back, John Tuggle, and he died in 1986.

Johnson has not yet played a game for the Giants.

Arthur Ting, team physician for the San Jose Sharks, said prognosis for lymphoma is ``almost limitless in terms of the spectrum. ... He could possibly play again.″

Lymphoma includes several types of cancer marked by excessive production of abnormal cells of the lymphatic system, a part of the immune system that carries special white blood cells throughout the body.

Hodgkin’s disease chiefly strikes young people and generally can be cured with radiation and other anti-cancer drugs in advanced cases.

The several cancers grouped under non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are treated with anti-cancer drugs but often they only extend life and relieve symptoms.

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