When surgeons removed his cancerous thyroid gland last April, Sam Farr was told it would be six months before he could play soccer again.
Two weeks later, Farr played for Seacoast United in the under-15 state final.
This fall the sophomore is playing a key role as a midfielder for the Portland boys.
“I’m an athlete and I just had to play,” Farr said, explaining his quick return.
Farr was diagnosed with cancer last March after Brian Farr, his father, noticed a decrease in his son’s energy level in the indoor soccer season.
“We actually found it by accident,” Sam Farr said. “I went to the doctor’s because I was having headaches and the doctor felt around my neck. The thyroid is about the size of a quarter and he just thought it felt enlarged.
“I went and had a biopsy, and we found out it was cancerous. It wasn’t benign.”
Because of the size of the tumor, doctors decided to remove the thyroid gland.
The Farrs were surprised to learn through genetic testing that Sam had a predisposition for that type of cancer.
“No one in the family has ever had that type of cancer,” Brian Farr said. “Also, that particular cancer usually strikes much older people. It’s rare for a teenager to have it.”
Farr now takes a drug to replace the hormones normally produced by the thyroid.
“It took a while to get my medicine right,” he said. “We had to change the dosage once or twice to get me feeling really good.”‘
The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones.
“The thyroid controls so much in your body,” Farr said. “This week I haven’t felt that good, but then there are other weeks where I feel great.”
This summer, Farr, 16, prepared for the high school soccer season by working with a personal trainer to increase his strength and endurance.
When the season began this month, Farr was named one of the team captains, a rare honor for a sophomore.
“We as a coaching staff look at leadership and the potential for leadership,” Portland Coach Rocco Frenzilli said. “He doesn’t play like a sophomore and he doesn’t lead like a sophomore.”
Brian Farr has noticed some changes in his son since his brush with cancer.
“He’s nicer,” the father said. “He’s become cognizant of people who have something wrong with them. He was never a me-me-me kid but now he’s just looking out for that kind of thing. It’s made him grow up a lot faster.”
When it comes to cancer, Farr still must be tested up to four times a year to make sure the disease doesn’t strike another body part.
“It really changes your view on everything,” he said. “It makes you think that in one moment something can change. Now it’s a part of me forever.”
KEY MATCHUPS: The York defense will try to shut down Kennebunk’s explosive offense Thursday night in a big Western Maine Conference game at Kennebunk.
Friday night the top games are in Falmouth and Yarmouth.
In Falmouth, the Yachtsmen, bidding for a berth in the regional tournament in their first season in Western Class A, hosts Heal point-worthy Greely in a WMC game.
In Yarmouth, the Clippers take on Cape Elizabeth in a match between two teams in the Western Class B’s top echelon.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: