Swimmer Eric Shanteau will glide through the water at the London Olympics free from the heavy – and life-threatening – burden he carried with him into the pool in Beijing.
Days before 2008 swimming trials, the breaststroke specialist – who trains under Coach Dave Salo at the University of Southern California – was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
"You’re sad, you’re scared, you’re angry, you’re frustrated," Shanteau said. "But more than anything else, you feel like you don’t have control over your own life."
The Georgia native – now 28 – chose to postpone treatment to pursue a spot on the US Olympic team headed to Beijing, which he nabbed.
"The gamble that I took was, leaving it in my body for two months you risk spreading," he said.
Though it was impossible to ignore the life-threatening chance he was taking, Shanteau says the Olympic stage was his refuge.
"For more, it was kind of like an escape," he said. "It was a place that I could go and think about something else other than cancer."
Six days after the Olympics ended, Shanteau went into surgery. His Stage 1 cancer required minimal treatment and his first post-op test revealed he was cancer-free.
He didn’t medal in the 2008 Games, but beating the disease has become a badge of honor.
"The biggest thing for me is really raising awareness and that’s, you know, continuing to swim and continuing to show people that, yes, I had cancer and, yes, I through this disease but I can still live the way I want to," he said.
Shanteau will compete in London in the 100-meter breaststroke.